Thursday, August 29, 2013

Race Night in Columbus!

Board gaming night tonight in Columbus (GA) at Moxie Games.

I learned how to play Dreadball - that was a lot of fun!  A science fiction themed version of Bloodbowl implemented by Mantic, and using the figures from their sci fi universe.  The game comes with Corporates (humans) and Marauders (space orcs).  It is a lot of fun, and for a somewhat simple structure, has a lot of nuance to it in both decision making and also in structure.  Excellent!  I look forward to more in the future.

Following Dreadball, I helped to demo a couple of games of Formula D.  We ran two races, the first with five players, and the second with seven players.  Both great games.  I actually played in the second, and came in second place (which is EXTREMELY rare for me in Formula D - I almost always wipe out).

The first race was in Hockenheim, and it was a very good race, with Steven (a new player I met tonight, who also learned Tsuro and the X-Wing Miniatures Game) being the first to crash and burn!  He did much better in the second game, finishing third place, I believe.

Hockenheim - from Track Pack #2 (Asmodee)

The second race, which is a tougher course (without the great big straightaways of HockenheimRing) was Valencia.  Both courses are part of the 2nd Asmodee track pack (from 2009).  This one came in to the final turn with my car in the lead - 14 spaces from the finish line, and I was in 4th gear.  My nearest competitor was Rob, and he was three spaces behind me, and also in 4th gear.  I pushed it up to 5th gear, rolled the dice, and came up with an 11. 
Rob came up second, and was able to cross the finish line with his dice roll.  A great game, and I only did good because I got some lucky breaks.  I think the dice were treating me kindly tonight so I would bring the game out more frequently, because they usually savage me like a Zulu warrior taking apart a steak dinner.

Valencia - from Track Pack #2 (Asmodee)

It looks like next week will feature Settler's of Catan themed games for Game Night at Moxie (in Columbus GA).  Please come and play, if you can!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Paper Miniatures Extravaganza!

Gaming with Chuck has posted links to free, available on the web, paper miniatures in the past, but it has been some time.

I recently came across the fantastic website Seven Wonders in the UK.

Go take a look at the wonderfulness here -

There are hundreds and hundreds (nee thousands) of pages of paper characters available.  These are all in the style of the classic Steve Jackson Games cardboard heroes.

There are all sorts of genres, with lots and lots of super heroes, all sorts of gaming genres (including 160 pages of pulp characters), heavy on the fantasy and science fiction (lots - classic, post apocalypse, etc), horror and so forth.

A sample sheet of Steampunk characters, as an example.

The art is from (according to the FAQ) scanned physical sources.  The site owner is completely non-profit, and offers to remove any art that is challenged by a copyright owner.

Is there a down side?  The only one I can imagine is that you have to download the images through a download site called RapidShare, but in the FAQ, the site owner (and creator of the figures) says that a redesign is in the works.

The site operates by donations - if you use any of these - donate something.  It is worth it!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Theremin Thursdays - Real Elves, Real Elf Music

Elves in movies and popular culture are a mixed bag.  Likewise elves in gaming.  A recent animated movie opened my eyes to this, although it has been an urge of mine for decades to really explore elves and elfin culture (whatever that may be) in gaming...

An interesting article on this same topic, that also brings up a modern urban fantasy novel series (by Anthea Sharp) that has a computer gaming world that is elf land, can be found at Wattpad.  The article is called Fantasy, Faeries . . . and Gaming?

What I have here in this article are three parts.  The first provides a categorization for different types of elves in pop culture.  It isn't perfect, but it works for me (and for this article).  Second, I have a review of SOME of the examples of elves and elf music in pop culture - ending with a recommendation for two recent movies on Elves that are both FANTASTIC.  Third, I review the history of Elves in gaming.

So, I'll start by establishing up front that it seems to me (a non expert, but a strong amateur, on the subject) that Elves (in both popular culture, as well as gaming) appear in three major supertypes each of which is related to one or more of the others.  (Throughout I will use the word "Elves" for the plural of Elf, rather than Elfs.  Elves just feels better. Similarly I would use Dwarves rather than Dwarfs.)

The first supertype is that of the (what I call) Elves as Little Person.  This view is popular in a lot of fairy tales outside of Scandinavia.  This is the basis for the idea of cobbler elves - little people that come and help a Shoemaker - or the Keebler Elves (little people who live in trees and make cookies), and also of Santa's Elves. A modern analogy might be the Borrowers (a children's fantasy novel by Mary Norton from 1952).  Fairy Tales and Mythology, of course, does not have as its main goal a hard and well defined taxonomy of mythical beings, but is rather concerned with telling a good story.  So, using it as definitive source material is great, but hardly specific.  Often these type of elves will have wings.  I would consider them (as a distinction) fairies.

The second supertype is that of the more human sized (perhaps slightly larger, perhaps slightly smaller) Elf, but also from fairy tales and mythology.  This type is very strongly represented in the Scandinavian tradition, where they are known as the Alfar, which is the name I'll use for them.  Here are found good elves and bad elves, which are sometimes call Light Elves, or Ljósálfar, and Dark Elves, or Dökkálfar.  A good source for these, comes from none other than that late medieval luminary, Snorri Sturluson, in his Prose Edda (an online English translation is here).  At the same time, there was another term, the Black Elves, or Svartálfar.  These last seem to really be a different sort of people, more like evil Dwarves than anything else.  There seems to be some comparison with the inhabitants of the "other world" in Celtic (and other) mythology and the Alfar.  If this is true, then in the expanded view of mythological traditions in the British Islands you have not only Little People elves, but also otherworldly Alfar elves, in the Welsh idea of the other world (Annwn), as well as the Irish idea of Tyr Na Nog.  Also, in Shakespeare, you have in Midsummer Night's Dream, the examples of Oberon and Titania.  The Elves Spenser's Faerie Queene seem to fit comfortably in this mold, as well.  One of the chief characteristics of this type of elf is that it dwells in "another place" other than the world of Humans.  That other place (whether it is Alfheim, or Queen Titania's Realm, or Annwn) is accessible by and visited by normal humans, especially Heroes, but it has rules that differ from ours.  Typically those rules are perceived of by human beings as Magic.  Good examples come from the Ford illustrations in the multiple volumes of Andrew Lang, as well as some of Arthur Rackham's illustrations (although Rackham also specializes in the Little Person type of elf as well. Other artists working in Elves and Fairies from the late 19th century include Dulac, Maybeck, Hughes, Doyle, Naiash, Fitzgerald, Simmons.

The third supertype is that of the modern fantasy literature version of elves, which seem to be strongly based on Tolkien, and his reinterpretation of the Alfar type elves.  Predictably, I will refer to these as Tolkien elves.  There are as many different tales of how the elves are different from humans, as there are fantasy worlds (both novels and gaming), however many seem to suggest that while the elves may have come from a magical place or other world, they are currently in the same world as the humans.  They may be eventually going back to that other world, but during the narrative of the story they are in the main world that humans occupy.  Also, while these sorts of Elves might be magic themselves in and of their origin, they seem to be limited to invoking and performing magic (much as a human who does magic - whether a wizard or a conjurer) while in the main "human" world.  As a nod to their magical origin, it is often agreed that they may be better at this than humans.
Galadriel by Angus McBride

To see an excellent example of what the Victorians thought about elves, and faerie land in general, much worse sources exist than The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley (1860).   Here it is for review.  If you like reading mythology, or seeing what the Victorians thought about elves, you could easily spend a few hours on this without batting an eyelash...
The Fairy Wood - by Henry Maynell Rheam

Some thoughts about elven music.  There isn't a lot of real mainstream pop music about elves.  However, if we lift back the cover on the music scene a little bit, dig a little deeper, open up our definition a little wider - and there is a lot of music about elves.

Getting the big names out of the way first, in classic Rock and Roll, we have a couple of songs that are candidates.  The first is "The Battle of Evermore" from Led Zeppelin.  This song borrows imagery and narrative elements from both The Faerie Queene (Spenser) and also The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien).  Here are the lyrics.

The Queen of Light took her bow and then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone

Oh, dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light
The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all
Oh, throw down your plow and hoe, race now to my bow

Side by side we wait the might, of the darkest of them all

I hear the horses thunder down in the valley below
I'm waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow

The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness
The ground is rich from tender care, which they do not forget, no, no
Dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light

The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrant's face is red

Oh, war is the common cry, pick up your swords and fly
The sky is filled with good and bad, mortals never know

Oh well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow

The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath
The drums will shake the castle wall, the Ringwraiths ride in black (ride on)

Sing as you raise your bow, (ride on) shoot straighter than before
No comfort has the fire at night that lights the face so cold

Oh, dance in the dark night, sing to the morning light
The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back, bring it back

At last the sun is shining, the clouds of blue roll by
With flames from the dragon of darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes

Oh, bring it back, bring it back...

The song had vocals supported by the English folk singer, Sandy Denny.

Speaking of English Folk songs, there is the song 700 Elves by the English folk/rock band from the 70s, Steeleye Span.  Here are the English lyrics of the song as performed by Steeleye Span, which is based originally on a Danish song...

Seven hundred elves from out the wood
Foul and grim they were
Down to the farmer's house they went
His meat and drink to share
There was a farmer in the west and there he chose his ground
He thought to spend the winter there and brought his hawk and hound
He brought with him both hound and cock alone he begged to stay
And all the deer that roamed the wood had cause to rue the day

He felled the oak, he felled the birch, the beech nor poplar spared
And much was grieved the sullen elves at what the stranger dared
He hewed him baulks and he hewed him beams with eager toil and haste
Then up and spake the woodland elves: “Who's come our wood to waste?”


Up and spake the biggest elf and grimly rolled his eyes:
“We'll march upon the farmer's house and hold on him assize
He's knocking down both wood and bower, he shows us great disdain
We'll make him rue the day he was born and taste of shame and pain.”

All the elves from out the wood began to dance and spring
And marched towards the farmer's house their lengthy tails to swing
The farmer from his window looked and quickly crossed his breast
“Oh woe is me,” the farmer cried, “The elves will be my guests.”

In every nook he made a cross and all about the room
And off flew many a frightened elf back to his forest gloom
Some flew to the east, some flew to the west, some flew to the north away
And some flew down the deep ravine and there forever stay


A video showing a performance of 700 Elves is on Youtube.

Another rock and roll that is concerned with elves is the song Rivendell by Rush.  This is a very interesting song, and has some great lyrics.  Here are the lyrics, followed by a youtube video that uses imagery from the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies.

Here are the lyrics for Rivendell by Rush...
Sunlight dances through the leaves
Soft winds stir the signing trees
Lying in the warm grass
Feel the sun upon your face
Elfin songs and endless nights
Sweet wine and soft relaxing lights
Time will never touch you
Here in this enchanted place

You feel there's something calling you
You're wanting to return
To where the misty mountains rise and friendly fires burn
A place you can escape the world
Where the dark lord cannot go
Peace of mind and sanctuary by loud water's flow

I've traveled now for many miles
It feels so good to see the smiles of
Friends who never left your mind
When you were far away
From the golden light of coming dawn
Till the twilight where the sun is gone
We treasure ev'ry season
And ev'ry passing day

We feel the coming of a new day
Darkness gives way to light a new way
Stop here for a while until the world,
The world calls you away
Yet you know I've had the feeling
Standing with my senses reeling
This is the place to grow old till
I reach my final day.
Al Stewart recorded a song in 1966 called The Elf, and it has some pretty good lyrics and also a good sound.  I have read that Jimmy Page played on that track, but I can't confirm.  The lyrics are very good, and certainly in the Annwn tradition of an Elf from another place, with magical abilities while in this world.

Here are the lyrics to Al Stewart's song (he of "Year of the Cat" fame) -
I sat upon the evening hill
The shadows set, the night grew still
And as I sat, guitar on knee
A voice of flowers called to me

Sing, sing to me your song
Sing, for I belong to the night
In the gray morning light, I'll be gone

I turned with eyes that strained for sight
And there amid the failing light
Dimly saw a figure small
Heard a voice of magic call

Sing, sing to me your song
Sing, for I belong to the night
In the gray morning light, I'll be gone

My fumbling fingers found the chords
My trembling lips fought for the words
I stopped to ask the stranger how
He softly said, "No questions now"

Sing, sing to me your song
Sing, for I belong to the night
In the gray morning light, I'll be gone

Then with the magic of the elves
My fingers danced among themselves
A heart with lightness thus endowed
Formed melodies I know not how

Song played the whole night long
Thus he danced and laughed through the night
And with gray morning light, he was gone

Now, the whispering wind plays over the hill
And the evening sounds again grow still
A year or more has passed since then
Oh, he will not pass my way again

So, I sing, sing to you my song
Sing for I belong to the night
In the gray morning light, I'll be gone

There is a recording of The Elf on Youtube.

Ronnie James Dio recorded a song called The Elves when he was in the band Amber Velvet.  He went on to be in a band called Elf.

Finally, there are a number of modern bands that are doing fantasy themed music that is certainly quite "elven" in feel, and sometimes even in title and lyric.  Check out Narsilion for an example.  A lot of people think that Elegia by Adiemus sounds quite elven, as well.

But... but... the thing that got me super inspired on this topic - and I know we are already about a country mile down into the posting before I get to this - the recent movie Epic.  It really does a great job of portraying elves.  It takes category one elves (little people), mixes in some of the mythical elements of category two elves (alfar), and finally treats them seriously as category three elves (Tolkien).  The movie is great - everything that a good fantasy movie should be.  The animation is good.  The soundtrack is fantastic (great Danny Elfman stuff).  If you haven't seen it - go see it.  If you can't - buy it, rent it, stream it - it is a good flick!!

The first track on the soundtrack is short, but really captures the classic Heroic feel of the tracks.

I have two pet peeves about the movie.  First - no need for the slugs.  This is an unabashed epic hero adventure - both for the young Leafman (Elf soldier) and also for the young lady (daughter of a scientist who thinks he has seen the elves).  The slugs are bantha poodoo.  Second - 3D.  I still hate it.

Okay, I couldn't end this without a nod to another recent Elf movie, although it might not be so obvious as Epic.  That movie is Arrietty from Studio Ghibli.

This is based on The Borrowers (which are classic examples of Category One elves - the Little People), but it has that wonderful Hayao Miyazaki twist on it.  Very, very well done.  Great soundtrack, good animation, lots of good adventure, and the best thing - this treats the effects of being really, really small seriously, and things like air currents and house infrastructure and sound are all treated very well, and believable (if you can believe 3" tall people).  Great stuff.  Here is a music track from the movie - very nicely done. This is Arrietty's Song, sung by Cecile Corbel, in Japanese.

I won't mention Princess Mononoke (looking up the movie and music from it are left as an exercise for the reader) :-)

Okay - so plenty about Elves and Music. Now about Elves and Gaming.  Lots of possible starting points, but I think one could be forgiven for beginning with the Fantasy Supplement to Chainmail. There, Elves are treated as Heavy Infantry.  This plays into a zeitgeist image that lots of people seem to recall from some Victorian art of Elves in a sort of super-magical chainmail that is quite elegant and form fitting.  Much more lovely, and more useful, than the real thing.

This same imagery was the inspiration for the wonderful Elven miniatures that were sculpted by Tom Meier for Ral Partha in the 70s, and beyond, leading to his own company of Thunderbolt Mountain. Tom also did a series of his elves for Citadel at one point.  There is a Flickr page with images of many of his Ral Partha elves here.

Once the (now) popular Warhammer rules for miniatures games came out (in the 1983 for the original edition) one of the mainstays of the game's many popular army themes was Elves.  They quickly (by the introduction of the first Forces of Fantasy supplement for the first game) bifurcated into Wood Elves and High Elves.  This seemed to mimic the thinking of the time from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which following it's predecessors (first Dungeons and Dragons, and before that, the Fantasy Supplement of Chainmail) had elves as one of the main races that the players could have their character represent.

At this point it should be pointed out that all of these examples of elves are very typically Category Three type elves - Tolkien type Elves.  These are the sort made popular in the novels of JRR Tolkien, and also in the rise of popular Fantasy novels in the 1970s (and somewhat before) in stuff like the Terry Brooks Shannara novels.

AD&D had elves split into different subraces (cultures) such as High Elves, Grey Elves and so forth.  This was a mimicry of the different sorts of elves that exist in Tolkien's Middle Earth setting.  The two distinct versions in the Warhammer setting are the Wood Elves (which have a distinctly Barbaric, woodland dwelling Celtic feel to them), and the High Elves (which have a feel very similar to the imagery portrayed by Tom Meier's Deep Elves - the extremely elaborate workmanship on armor and weapons, extremely decorative, but quite deadly.  Given over to deep, centuries long study of music, magic, philosophy and other heavier thoughts, High Elves are also quite formidable when it comes to making war.

There is a bit of a feel of the Warhammer High Elves that is borrowed from the Melbinoean race of the Elric novels by Michael Moorcock.  But that race from fiction would go on to inspire, in gaming, in many different ways, a lot of the different versions of Dark Elves.  In the AD&D setting, going back to the classic Giants adventures penned by Gary Gygax, the Dark Elves were a sort of mix between Alfar and Svartalfar - they lived underground, were distinctly evil, but had many of the traits of elves - understanding of magic and a manufacturing of fantastic artifacts.

If one considers all the many treatments of elves that take place in Fantasy Role Playing games, or even Fantasy Miniatures Games, then this would be an extremely long article. Instead, I want to offer up three different examples from board gaming, and then call it quits.

The first is the old Chaosium game not that old, as these things are counted, it is from 1978) called "Stomp!".
Stomp! is a fun microgame, that pits a giant vs. a pack of elves who have wandered into the Giant's garden.  The elves are individually modeled as counters, armed with a variety of (hopeless) anti-Giant weapons.  The giant himself (or herself?) is modeled as two counters representing the giant's feet.  The giant (as the name suggests) is determined to squash the elves.  Great fun for the giant...

Sidebar: The action in Stomp! takes place in a giant's garden.  Just like the wonderful Oscar Wilde story, "The Selfish Giant".  Given Mr. Wilde's notorious reputation as an anti-religious free thinker, I have always loved The Selfish Giant, but marveled at the Christian tones of the story.  It is wonderful, and in the early 70s there was an animated movie (originally a 10 minute short, turned into a 30 minute TV special, which I must have watched as a kid about a zillion times).  Here is a version from youtube.  Definitely worth the 30 minutes of your time, but there is little to wargame here, and even less to do with elves.

For those who are interested in such things, there is a nice musical version (with some really nice fantasy illustrations accompanying it) that has been composed by Dan Goeller, information is available at  Okay, back to elves, and Stomp!

Stomp! was done by Chaosium in the 1970s.  That was their hayday of involvement in Runequest (second edition is still one of the best that was ever done, or so the opinion of Gaming with Chuck staff will attest).  In Runequest, at least in classic Runequest (as it SHOULD be played), the action takes place in the fantasy world of Glorantha.  The elves of that world are called the Aldryami, and are actually sort of vegetable people.  Don't push this too far - they don't have leaves (I don't think - I've never seen one without reasonable clothing on).  But they are extremely closely related to trees, the different subspecies being related to different types of trees.  It is rumored that certain tribes of Glorantha trolls will eat Elves, and still consider themselves to be vegetarian.

Runequest Elf
Stomp! as a game, featured one large and powerful unit (the Giant) vs. a number of smaller annoying but easily dispatched units (the Elves).  This was done in a number of other games, most notably OGRE - a favorite here at Gaming with Chuck.  Similar games where the large indestructible unit was not IN the game, but was rather the setting OF the game included the space games Annihilator and Berserker!

The first of these two, Annihilator, was about a giant robotic starship that was bent on destruction.  The interior of the ship was protected by security systems and robots and so forth, and the invading player had to deal with those in order to deactivate the Annihilator and win the game.  It was a Metagaming Microgame (as was OGRE), but this time it was part of a two pack, along with a game about religous war called One World. Fun game, but no elves.

The second of the two mentioned, Berserker, was about giant robot death machines left over from an ancient galactic struggle, and they are attempting to destroy planets and life.  Based on the FANTASTIC stories by Fred Saberhagen.  The game was from Mayfair (long before they heard of the little words "Settlers of Catan"), and it was a lot of fun.  Not a great game (kind of a dog), but fun to fool around with, especially if you like the stories.  Still, no elves, but the Berserker fulfills the role of Giant nicely.

One more title that should be mentioned where the players on one side are attacking a large, tough to beat foe on the other side, is Snit's Revenge!  Nothing at all about Elves here, but it is about a band of small, easily defeated critters (the Snits) who decide that they have had enough of being smashed by the Bolotumus - actually there are several Bolotomi, lurking about on the beach, and when the Snits get the URGE!!! to run up on the beach, and stick their snotch in a snandergrab, in order to breed - the Bolotomi think it is great fun to smash them - the original game, published in Dragon Magazine was about that part of this bizarre ecology, and was titled (appropriately) Snit Smashing!  In the follow on, the Snits have had enough, and they decide to invade the body of one of the Bolotomi - running into various orafices on the Bolotomus body, and then proceeding to try and kick the life out of the Bolotomus by destroying his internal organs and the thingies (technical term from the game) that swim around and make them work.  Wonderful, fantastic game.  Best wargame ever (probably not). But it is about a lot of small units (the Snits) taking on a large and unstoppable foe (the Bolotomus) - but still, no elves.
The board of the 1978 version of Snit's Revenge, showing the inside of a Bolotomus. No elves.

Some images from the Snit's Revenge rulebook are worth sharing here - the comic back story by the wonderful genius mind of Tom Wham (who illustrated and wrote the game - and a bunch of other wonderful games, for TSR, notably Dragon Magazine).

The predecessor - Snit Smashing - was originally published in Dragon Magazine, vol 2 number 4 (1977).  It was followed in the next issue by Snit's Revenge (vol 2 number 5), which then got a board game treatment a year later (1978) - which is the edition I bought (featuring a slip cover, that velcroed together, pictured above - and nice glossy cardboard snits, runengettims, makums, snorgs and all the usual stuff from a wargame), and still own.  There were two other editions - a large Monopoly sized boxed set in 1980 (bleah) and then a Steve Jackson Games reprint in 2004, that included both titles and some more.  No elves in any edition, however.

War of the Ring from SPI.  Finally a game with Real Elves?

Speaking of that era in gaming, a title that did feature Elves was the SPI wargame, the War of the Ring, published in 1977.  This was a great game (a GREAT game) that featured two levels of play.  Both took place on the iconic map of Middle Earth that corresponds to the one by Professor Tolkien in his fantastic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.  The first version of the game, was a bunch of characters on both sides - the 9 members of the fellowship on the good side, and the 9 nazgul on the bad side.  The Fellowship characters were trying to get the ring to Mount Doom for destruction, and the nazgul were trying to capture it to deliver it to old Sauron.  The second version of the game included all of that, but also going on on the same map was the massive war of the ring -with the armies of orcs, half orcs, snaga orcs, trolls, uruk hai orcs, olog hai trolls, monsters, and other fun stuff on the side of Sauron (I still remember the MASSIVE combat factors of the Olog Hai trolls and the Uruk Hai orcs).  On the good side, there are the characters already mentioned, and a bunch of other characters (Eowyn, Treebeard, etc), as well as armies of Men, Elves, Dwarves and if I recall, even a Shire military unit (the shire moot - the sheriff and a bunch of armed hooligan hobbits, on fat ponies and looking for trouble).  The game was wonderful.  I have no idea if the Fantasy Flight modern version (a different game, but the same massive scope and excellent production quality) is as good, it is on my wargaming bucket list.
The elves are Green, as they should be.

The original version of the SPI title came out as a typical SPI flat pack, which you could buy alone, or with two other titles (Gondor and Sauron - in the "Games of Middle Earth" set, it should have been a quad, but that would require a fourth title).  Then a bit later, as SPI was pushing into traditional retail outlets like book stores and toy stores, they cut a deal with Ralph Bakshi (responsible for the Lord of the Rings animated movie) to use some of his art to market a boxed bookshelf version of just the main game.  This version came with a mounted color board, and was the version I owned and played lovingly many times.
Finally, a game with Elves in it.
Each of the characters had a card that detailed their abilities and combat (and magic) statistics.  Here is Legolas (an actual elf).
Legolas Greenleaf
Notice, this is an actual elf.  From a game.  The point of the article, after all.  Now, to turn to a modern rendition of the Tolkien saga, we compare this 1970s version from the wonderfully talented gaming artist, Tim Kirk, to the version portrayed in the Peter Jackson films.
Legolas Greenleaf
Put the hood up on that homey, and by jove - he looks the same!  Finally, an actual elf. And here is some actual elf music, featuring none other than the legendary Legolas Greenleaf singing. Real Elf Singing.

As mentioned, there were other titles in the Games of Middle Earth series, notably Gondor (about the Battle of the Pelennor Fields - few elves participating, so we will ignore this important battle for now), and Sauron.  This second one, Sauron, is about the battle in front of the Gates of Mordor, on the battle plain of Dagorlad. This was the Battle of the Dagorlad Plains which would precede the 7 year Siege of Barad Dur (the fortress protecting the entrance to Mordor).  It featured an army of Men (including Isildur) and Elves (Elrond, er, Agent Smith, was supposedly there, but it doesn't list it on the stats of his Topps baseball card - you'd think that a big event like the Siege of Barad Dur would be listed on the guys baseball card) commanded by Gil Galad and Elendil - both killed. Their place was taken by Cirdan, Elrond, . The battle plain would later become a marsh (the haunted marshes where Gollum and Frodo have so much fun together during the Trilogy).  The gaming treatment of the battle by SPI featured a number of counters for different units, here is a picture of the action.  Notice the number of Real Elves pictured here, as well as Isildur, riding up the road to the gates, to chop off someone's finger.
Disruption markers based on big magic from Sauron.  Not enough for the big guy, Isildur is coming.
Now compare that to the version from the Peter Jackson movies...

Elves on the left (blue counters in the SPI game, alongside dwarves and men), and orcs on the right (red counters in the SPI game).  A good match.  Once again, Real Elves.

Notice that all of these SPI titles were preceded by a Magazine game, on the Siege of Barad Dur - in Jagdpanther Magazine, back in 1975.  Here is an image of the original components -

Note: Not real elves.

That wraps up this edition of Theremin Thursdays.  This was a fun topic, and one that could go on forever and ever.  The one area I wanted to touch on, but did not, were the great Elf games (Elfenland, Elfenroads) by Alan Moon.  I particularly like King of the Elves - a travel game, much like his Ticket to Ride, but played differently and not with trains, and not with set collection, and with elves and with troll porters and interesting stuff like the wind powered Elf cycle.

On second thought, it is nothing like Ticket to Ride, but I like both, and King of the Elves has real elves in it.  Ticket to Ride - not so much.  Except maybe on the cover art of Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries. For a Ticket to Ride elf, see here:
One last time - A real elf.
Finally, to end this, I will offer up one last piece of Elf music - from an independent fellow named Hermey.

And remember, that is Real Elf Music too.  And as much as you might not like the idea of Hermey being an elf (also recall he is a Dentist), I will present that it is much more real than this (see below) ever should have been.  Sorry, Wendy and Richard - I loved the stories, but I never thought they were elves.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Traveller Tuesdays - T5 based System Generation Modification

Following the split that took place earlier, I am posting Content articles over at The Etzina Passage, but alternative Rules articles (and reviews) here on Gaming with Chuck. This is an alternative (or house) rules article. It has to do with a modification to the Mongoose method of rolling up system contents (other than the main world). It has been inspired by my investigation of the new T5 from Marc Miller.

As a modification to the system contents developed earlier, here, this is an alternative method to develop the nature of the worlds within the different orbitals, inspired by the work in T-5 (pages 426-443).

Once the various orbitals are filled, follow the rest of the procedure shown earlier, for determining the location of left over planetoid belts and gas giants, and then for developing the location of significant bases.

Inner Zone Occupied Orbital

2d6 - Check against following
Double 1 - Gas Giant (if exists)
Double 6 - Companion Star, place in last orbit of system, ignore (reroll) future Double 6

Otherwise, look at lowest of the two dice.
1,2Roll on Inner Zone world table
3Planetoid belt, if possible, or Size 1 world (Worldlet) otherwise
4,5Roll on Inner Zone world table
6Planetoid belt, if possible, or Size 1 world (Worldlet) otherwise

Inner Zone World table
3Secondary World
4Big World
5Storm World
6Rad World

Chance for satellite?
Gas Giant - 1d-1 (significant satellites)
If 0 is rolled exactly, there is a ring (only)
Otherwise, then 1d6 (3+) chance for ring
Other Inner Zone worlds - 1d-5
If 0 is rolled exactly, there is a ring.

Inner Zone Satellite table
4Secondary World
5Storm World
6Rad World
7Big World
+1 to dice, if checking for
a Gas Giant satellite

Habitable Zone Occupied Orbital

2d6 - Check against following
Double 1-5 - Gas Giant (if exists)
Double 6 - Companion Star, place in last orbit of system, ignore (reroll) future Double 6

Otherwise, look at lowest of the two dice.
1,2Roll on Habitable Zone World table
3Planetoid belt, if possible, or Size 1 world (Worldlet) otherwise
4,5Roll on Habitable Zone World table
6Planetoid belt, if possible, or Size 1 world (Worldlet) otherwise

Habitable Zone World table
3Hospitable World
4Big World
5Storm World
6Rad World

Chance for satellite?
Gas Giant - 1d-1 (significant satellites)
If 0 is rolled exactly, there is a ring (only)
Otherwise, then 1d6 (3+) chance for ring
Other Habitable Zone worlds - 1d-4
If 0 is rolled exactly, there is a ring.

Habitable Zone Satellite table
4Hospitable World
5Storm World
6Rad World
7Big World
+1 to dice, if checking for
a Gas Giant satellite

Outer Zone Occupied Orbital

2d6 - Check against following
Double 1-5 - Gas Giant (if exists)
Double 6 - Companion Star, place in last orbit of system, ignore (reroll) future Double 6
If total of 2d6 is greater than orbital, then Gas Giant (if exists)

Otherwise, look at highest of the two dice.
1,2Roll on Outer Zone world table
3Planetoid belt, if possible, or Size 1 world (Worldlet) otherwise
4,5Roll on Outer Zone world table
6Planetoid belt, if possible, or Size 1 world (Worldlet) otherwise

Outer Zone World table
2Ice World
3Ice World
4Big World
5Ice World
6Rad World

Chance for satellite?
Gas Giant - 1d-1 (significant satellites)
If 0 is rolled exactly, there is a ring (only)
Otherwise, then 1d6 (3+) chance for ring
Other Outer Zone worlds - 1d-3
If 0 is rolled exactly, there is a ring.

Outer Zone Satellite table
3Ice World
4Secondary World
5Storm World
6Rad World
7Big World
+1 to dice, if checking for
a Gas Giant satellite

World Types

For all of these different world types, if it is not a Main world, then it will only have a Space Port, rather than a Star Port, otherwise generate as if a Main World. Maximum Population is Main World POP -1.
Size = 1d6-3. Otherwise, generate normal sequence.
Secondary World
Population -4; Hydrographics -4. Otherwise generate normal sequence.
Ice World
Population -6. Otherwise generate normal sequence.
Storm World
Size=2d6; Near constant high winds and storms. Atmosophere +4; Hydrographics -4; Population -6. Otherwise generate normal sequence.
Rad World
Size=2d6. Extremely high radiation. POP=0, GOV=0, LL=0. Otherwise generate normal sequence.
Big World
Size=2d6+7. Otherwise generate normal sequence.
Spaceport = Y (no facility). Size=2d6. Atmosphere=B (Corrosive). Hydrographics=0. POP=0, GOV=0, LL=0.
Habitable World
This is a world that could be a candidate for a Main World.


Non Mainworld Spaceports are generated like this:
Roll POP - 1d6. Results are:
2- Spaceport F (Good facility, minor repairs, unrefined fuel) - Downport, good quality terminal.
3 Spaceport G (Poor facility, superficial repairs, unrefined fuel) - Downport, basic terminal.
4,5 Spaceport H (Basic facility, no repairs, no fuel) - Landing slab and a beacon
6+ Spaceport Y - same as Starport X

If there is an Orbital Facility, then it is automatically Spaceport G or higher. If there is a Surface Facility, then it is automatically Spaceport H or higher.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Conquer the World - in less than 10 minutes

Got a copy of Eight-Minute Empire recently, as part of the kickstarter that backs Eight Minute Empire Legends. Cracked it open, and gave it a play with the staff here at Gaming with Chuck HQ.

We enjoyed it.  It was quick (first time play, with three players, maybe 15 minutes - I could see this taking only 8 minutes once players are veteran with the concept).  It is am empire building game (sort of).  All of the basics are there - resource management, economic growth, conquest, territorial gains, positional strategy.  Sort of.

The map (the game comes with two), cubes are armies, discs are cities, round tokens are a variant (preplaced resources)

The game play is quite simple.  There are a number of cards visible, and available.  On your turn you select one and then add it to your growing collection of sets, that may be worth victory points at the end of the game (cards each have a resource on them, which combine into sets worth victory points).  Each card also has 1 action that you perform, that affects the empire situation on the (simple, but attractive) game board.  Some of the cards are "wild" which means they still have an action to perform, but may be used as any resource at the end of the game (to build larger sets).

The actions have to do with (1) placing armies, (2) moving armies, (3) removing opponent armies, (4) building cities.  Cities are the same as an army, but once built cannot move, and cannot be removed.

The selection of a card may be free, or it may cost you some gold pieces (each player has a stash given to them at the beginning of the game, to allow judicious expenditure in order to take a card early in it's appearance into the game).

The end of the game has a score calculated based on (1) one point for each territory where you have the most pieces, (2) one point for each continent where you have the most pieces, (3) points based on the sets of resources you turn in.

Simple, decisions abound, nice straight forward strategy, two paths to victory (territory conquest, or cards).

In all, we think it is a win.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Crowdfunding - Alternate pieces for Settlers of Catan (or other games...)

Indiegogo Site

This is a neat looking startup to produce some alternate plastic pieces for Settlers of Catan.

Each color corresponds to a different architecture, based on an ancient civilization.

Looks good, I'm in for a 6 player set.  Also, cloth bags for each set as an add-on.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Writeup on Sphere Fenix - First posting on new Traveller Blog

The first of the new posts over at The Etzina Passage has been posted, this is an introduction to the stellar nation that the Etzina Passage is within - Sphere Fenix. A little bit has been written about the history, and the government.

A Study in Emerald

So, I just filled out the pre-ship survey on this one.  It looks like it will be pretty good.  It is Martin Wallace, and it is based on a Neil Gaiman story.  And the art for the cards looks great.  What could possibly go wrong?

Lots of preview stuff about the gameplay, cards, etc on the kickstarter page.  I understand it will also be available directly through Treefrog Games (Martin's company).

Neat pictures on the Treefrog Games facebook page as well.

Enough about the game - the Story that Neil Gaiman wrote, which is the basis for the game (in short: Sherlock Holmes solves mystery in a world where the Cthulhu Mythos are real), is available online - at Neil's website.  This, by the way, is a fantasticly done version with a really nice layout. So if you have read it before (or not) do your self a favor and check it out.

That is all.