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Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Monday, 28 January 2008
Friday, 11 January 2008
Cue bugle music
As Ken and others have intimated recently, we’ve been making some big decisions behind the scenes here at F:AT of late, under the auspices of the mysterious Gabbo. I’m now in the privileged position to be able to tell you what, exactly, is going on.
We’ve decided to kill off the Fortress Amertriash blog.
I missed out on being the first one to post on this blog when it opened (that honour went to Malloc) so I’m sure as hell going to get the last post in now that I’ve got the chance. Being a person of precious little imagination I couldn’t think of anything better to do with this illustrious space than to spend some time reflecting on what F:AT came to stand for during its existence.
Well, it stood for Fortress : Ameritrash for one thing.
Beyond that it’s sometimes difficult to see what united us all and what common threads there were running through the material we posted. After all, even within our shared embracing of the term “Ameritrash” for our favourite games there was some extraordinary diversity – look at Mr. Skeletors top ten games and contrast with mine if you don’t believe me. I’ve always viewed this as a great strength because the result was a blog which varied wildly in terms of style, content and coverage and as a result had broad appeal and the potential for lasting interest. But we’ve had our little fights behind the scenes as well – I’m sure you’d expect nothing less from people who like conflict-heavy games about backstabbing and treachery. All the infighting is one reason we’ve decided to wind down the blog.
So what’s left? Is this a blog about theme-heavy games, as many people have suggested as the unifying factor behind the AT badge. I don’t think so – we’ve had some great gossip columns on the general gaming scene, some wild raves about subjects only distantly connected to games and even devoted space to wider trash culture.
So maybe we don’t have much of a shared reference point at all, as a number of critics charged when the AT phenomenon first took off. But, inevitably, I don’t think that’s true. I think that out of the smoke and chaos that accompanied the birth of F:AT something very clear and very important has emerged – a growing group of people who want to help everyone remember that games, gaming culture, talking about games and playing games are, above all, supposed to be fun.
This realisation hit me when I noticed that there were a small group of die-hard Eurogamers who were using the comments here on the blog and many other channels to voice the message that hey, they might hate our style of games, but the tone of what we were posting was still striking a chord with them. They remembered that a lot of the early Eurogames – the games that helped change the face of our hobby for the better – were basically light to medium-weight games with simple but appealing themes and which mixed traditional mechanics based on randomisation and strategic movement with more novel, inventive, tactical rules. Games which are still considered classics by fans of many genres today – Settlers of Catan, Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande and Ra. How the hell, they seemed to be wondering, did we go from simple design principles such as easy rules and short playing time to a world where theme is considered sinful, lightweight or random games are held in disdain and grown men spend inordinate amounts of time fussing and fighting, often with quite stunning levels of personal venom, over trivial analyses of balance and symmetry?
I’m well aware that what one person considers “fun” can be another mans’ tedium but the term here is meant broadly as in “not serious”. We don’t think games are an art form. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying we don’t like a game because it’s hard work. We don’t care if other people think that sci-fi and fantasy games, books and films are for children. We don’t care about being judged just because we go all weak-kneed over a box full of brightly coloured plastic toys. We don’t care if games involve pretending to be violent, or pretending to be immoral or pretending to be treacherous and backstabbing your friends because we know that it’s just pretending. We don’t care if people think that we’re being rude, disrespectful, sexist or divisive because we like to swear or speak our minds about things or people. We don’t care because in spite of the inordinate amount of time we lavish on our favourite games and our favourite themes we know that in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter a rats’ arse. They’re for having fun, not for taking seriously and so no amount of insults or rude words traded over them should be remembered or taken to heart. We can be serious adults if we want to or need to. After all, there are many, many things in the world which need serious consideration and serious solutions. But games aren’t one of them, and they never will be.
We maybe started to take F:AT too seriously, which is another reason why we chose to wind the site down.
So that’s my take, in a nutshell, on what bought us together as a group and what F:AT was all about. So now it’s time to sit around the campfire for a while, crack open a bottle of good (Scotch) whiskey, toast some (vegetarian) marshmallows and sing sad songs until the dawn, in between drunken reminiscing about the good old days that we all spent together.
Or instead we could keep the whiskey, say fuck to the rest of it and break out some kick-arse monster games to play way past the dawn and right into the point where people start collapsing from exhaustion and alcohol poisoning. And at that point, I’ll stagger up, raise a glass and lead everyone in a toast:
“F:AT is dead. Long live F:AT!”
Thursday, 10 January 2008
We're talking about a very delicate, intimate matter over at Gameshark.com this week- playing with yourself.
Now, just go ahead and admit it. You get that new game but game night is 4-5 days away. It's 12:30 AM and you've read through the rules, punched out the pieces...so you make sure the front door is locked and think "I'll just set it up to see what it looks like". Then you think "I'll just play a turn or two to see how it goes. Before you know it, you're playing the game by yourself.
Don't worry, it isn't nearly as shameful as watching scrambled porn channels or subscribing to Maxim Magazine.
I wonder how many BGGers had "their first" soloing AGRICOLA?
Tuesday, 8 January 2008
No, we're not dead. We're not "giving up"--in fact, most of us are more fired up right now than we have been in a long time.
So here's a little thread to let everyone know that
SOMETHING BIG IS COMING FROM THE FORTRESS....AND VERY SOON
Look for our sentimental send-offs to the old girl to start soon. And stayed glued to this space for details...things are about to get VERY interesting.
And another belated thank you to everyone who has checked out our blog over the past nine+ months. Your patience and interest are hopefully about to be rewarded in spades.
"Gabbo". The "Blue Harvest" of Ameritrash boardgaming.
Monday, 7 January 2008
So anyway, Jeremy at FFG is kind enough to send us a very cool Press Release for featuring on our blog.
Unfortunately, he sent it to us on December 17th, and it fell into the void known as "Fat Man Jolly Days" and "We are Working on GABBO right now, please bugger off."
As I said, I fail at Press Releases.
Fantasy Flight Games currently shipping Confrontation: The Age of the Rag'narok
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Editor's note: Oops)
Roseville, MN (December 18, 2007): Fantasy Flight Games has shipped the starter set for Rackham's Confrontation: The Age of the Rag'narok to distributors and retailers and has declared a street date of Wednesday, December 19 for this highly anticipated game.
"We're very happy to get this game out right before Christmas," said Jeremy Stomberg of FFG.
"Rackham and FFG, working together, have gotten a beautiful, fun game to retailers just in time for last-minute gift givers to put another present under the tree."
Confrontation: The Age of the Rag'narok is a medieval fantasy skirmish game featuring highly-detailed pre-painted plastic miniatures. It is the newest version of the wildly popular Confrontation miniatures game that has been a staple of Rackham's line since 2000. The new game is fully compatible with Rackham's metal Confrontation figures, with decks of game cards featuring Age of the Rag'narok stats available in stores and for free download online.
To promote the game, FFG's media division, Landroval Studios, has created a promotional video available on their website at http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/confrontation/video-lg.html (Quicktime required, available here: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/).
New miniatures featuring well over a dozen different armies in the game's universe will launch in early 2008 and will continue with monthly releases into the future.
About Fantasy Flight Games
Based in Roseville, Minnesota, Fantasy Flight Games has been designing and distributing hobby games for over a decade. Founded by Christian T. Petersen, FFG produces games based on computer games such as World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Kingdom Hearts; games based on written works like J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu stories; and many original properties such as Twilight Imperium and Descent.
Since its creation in 1997, Rackham has specialized in the designing, manufacturing and marketing of miniatures strategy games based on imaginary universes. Confrontation was the first game released by the company. Simulating conflict in a medieval fantasy universe, it rapidly became a success and continues to evolve as a game and as a universe.
# # #
Fantasy Flight Games
1975 West County Road B2, Suite 1
Roseville, MN 55113
Thursday, 3 January 2008
So yeah, Atlanta gaming legend, Black Metal tastemaker extraordinare, and my former employee BILLY MOTION and I have started playing ASL. OK, it' s just the training wheels "Starter Kit" version but it's still enough to make "hardcore" gamers who think 12 pages of rules are too much cry softly in fear. There is rules complexity, but more significantly the range of decisions, possible outcomes, and potentials for creative use of resources make PUERTO RICO look like Tic Tac Toe.
ASL is amazing. I never thought I'd say that, particularly after years of being conditioned to think that it's completely unplayable, inaccessible, and that playing the game will cause you to immediately sprout a beard and a middle-aged paunch. Truth be told, Billy has become a little more hirsute around the chops but I chalk that up to his finger-on-the-pulse fashion sense than any ASL side effect.
So move on over, cover-to-cover, to Gameshark.com for this week's Cracked LCD where we go where even gamers fear to tread. Special thanks to Bill Abner for making me look like I knew who the hell Curt Schilling was beyond "the guy that runs Multiman Publishing".
Saturday, 29 December 2007
OK, get your tuxes ready everybody…it’s time for the 2007 Trashies! Now, I have to admit, that I wasn’t going to do Trashies this year…mainly because they were really about BGG and the culture over there more than anything else. But when edit-monger Bill Abner tasked me with doing a year-end list for Gameshark.com, I started writing and I realized that I was basically writing the 2007 Trashies Awards. And since I didn’t want Bill and Co. over there to get hit with lawsuits or anything like that I decided to send them the “good guy” version. F:AT gets the uncensored, Renegade Version- yes, just like HIGHLANDER. Now, if you don’t like what you see here or you don’t feel like something was represented that you feel that ought to be, by all means add it in the talkback.
I think it really does say a lot that being away from BGG has made these awarda more about games and less about the bankrupt “culture” over there.
Anyway, I think I see Matt Thrower’s 1986 white Lamborghini Countach pulling up to the red carpet so let's do this thing.
The 2007 PT Barnum Sucker Prize for Excellence in Board Game Marketing
BATTLELORE came out last Christmas with the promise of hordes of expansions that would somehow (according to the ad copy) bring old D&D players and fans of MASTER OF MAGIC into the hobby along with providing the total newbie with a great entry point in the form of a $80 retail game with a 80+ page rulebook and the need to purchase further components. The game as shipped was certainly beautifully appointed with great production and a proven system and it looked like 2007 was going to be the year of BATTLELORE. But then, early this year, the expansions started to come out and it didn’t take long for me and many others to realize that they added very little to the game and what’s worse, some felt that the game wasn’t complete in the box and that Days of Wonder simply broke off chunks to extend the sale date, so to speak. What’s more, with the “missing” pieces in place the game was still several notches below the vastly superior COMMANDS AND COLORS: ANCIENTS, which uses the exact same system but somehow provides a much, much better game. But hey, hats off to Days of Wonder for getting folks who turn their noses up at miniature gaming and collectible card games to engage in the same buying practices.
The “At Least It Ain’t Rush” Award for Best Board Game Soundtrack
Every Board Game Ever Released With the Exception of LAST NIGHT ON EARTH
A shocker! Somehow, the _only_ board game released with a soundtrack this year didn’t get the nod- instead, the tabletalk, color commentary, bad language, and rules explanations that serve as the aural environment we generally play games in wins the award. It’s definitely better than the amateurish, embarrassing, and totally un-zombieish CD gimmick that jacked LAST NIGHT ON EARTH’s retail price up $5-10. The funny thing is that if they had included Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack to ZOMBI it would have worked a hell of a lot better and I wouldn’t be bitching.
The Big Board Game Stink ’07
TIE- Mayfair Games Announces "Price Fixing"/Alliance with Satan and DUEL IN THE DARK
Of course, if you’ve ever read any of the popular (not as in the “cool” or “attractive to girls” sense) boardgaming webpages out there, you’ve probably gathered that it doesn’t take much to send hobby gamers into a state of extreme underwear unction. There were a couple of things that went down this year, like the time I told a glorified webmaster that he was “full of crap” that caused seismic shockwaves throughout the boardgaming community, but nothing made boardgamers lose their minds quite like Mayfair’s announcement that it would protect the endangered mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar retail stores that have supported the hobby for decades by enforcing a policy that would limit deep discounting by online retailers. The sheer thought of having to pay $3-4 more for a board game sent many into fits of absolute lunacy and I’m sure there was at least one suicide. Of course, online boardgaming wisdom tells us that dirty ol’
Biggest Jumped-Up Piece of Shit That I Played All Year
Good gravy, Days of Wonder scores again in another category they ought not be trying to win. COLESSEUM was pretty close to the worst game I played all year, a completely enervating exercise in all the worst excesses (if you can call them that) of European board game design. Now, I do have to say that this game is freaking beautiful when it’s laid out and the production is just fantastic. I was genuinely excited to play it because I liked the theme (you’re show promoters in Ancient Rome) and I thought the mechanics sounded familiar but they might be fun with the right setting. So what you get is nothing more than GERMAN AUCTION GAME TEMPLATE B with a bunch of bells and whistles. Call ‘em wheezes and grunts, because this dog isn’t fit for show. Days of Wonder’s strategy of making games so pretty that no one realizes how shallow and boring they are hits the jackpot once again- or did it? Has anyone in the world played this game since September?
The Bloody Listern Knife for the Best 2007 Family Game About Eviscerating Hookers
Nothing says family fun like a game with cutie-pie artwork about Jack The Ripper- but you throw cocaine addict Sherlock Holmes into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for wackiness! So while Holmes is doped up over by the wrong street lamp, Saucy Jack turns another victim inside out. “Pretty sneaky, sis!” MR. JACK won this one by default, but rumor has it that at least five other Eurogamer designers are rushing to design their own Ripper games using mechanics such as blind bidding, card drafting, and role selection to recreate in an extremely abstract fashion the events of 1888.
The Mother Theresa Blue Veil Chastity Prize for the Game with the Tightest Box
Last year’s blowout winner was of course MISSION: RED PLANET which caused much consternation among quick-to-shoot, angry BGGers who demand smooth opening, easy-access boxes that don’t even require a glass of wine to pry apart. This year, DUST, a really cool game that is getting almost no publicity whatsoever rather than the “World Map=RISK” notices takes the prize. Using carefully calibrated scientific equipment designed in response to the MRP Box Crisis of ’06, I gauged that it took me nearly 200 PSI of force to remove the box and it required 4.3 seconds. Somebody page Randy Cox and get him to come up with a statistics table so we can accurately track this growing problem. Note to board game publishers- please continue to make those sticky, slick boxes with bottoms slightly larger than the tops. I love that.
Board Gaming Event of the Year
THE REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE BRIDE OF THE HOUSE OF BILLY AND MIKE CON ’07: THE REVENGE IN 3D
Why so sad? You didn’t get invited? Tough shit. You missed out, and I’m not even going to tell you what games we played because it’s MEMBERS ONLY, thank you very much. You’ve got to go on BGG and rate MILCH UND GHERKIN through the roof and continually kiss my ass online and in blogposts, podcasts, and to the high heavens in order to get an invitation. Next year, we’ll be joined by none other than STEVE WEEKS.
BEST TRICK PLAYED ON EUROGAMERS
Mac Gerdt’s “Rondel” System
Ho ho! Including F:AT whipping boy HAMBURGUM, that’s score _three_ for Mr. Gerdts! Whodathunk that simply taking the arrow off a spinner and letting folks choose to spend a couple of ducats or whatever to pick the spot they want would turn out to be such a beloved and “innovative” mechanic? I’m convinced that Mac secretly just wanted to get a bunch of stick-in-the-mud snobs like Clearclaw to play games with spinners.
Most Softball Board Game Review by Someone regarded as and Authority on the Subject
If there’s anything people like Rick Thornquist (R.I.P.?), Tom Vasel, and Greg Schloesser have brought to the field of board game criticism and evaluation it’s the amazing ability to generate not only repeatable, soft-touch platitudes but also the ability to say absolutely nothing interesting about a game whatsoever in the space of a review. Mr. Schloesser has made an art of the confusingly noncommittal review, and his review of CUBA (really just a précis of the rules with a vague “it was OK” sort of statement) had me wondering if “Greg Schloesser” is really a codename for a piece of boardgame review-generating software. Here’s an example of the hard-hitting, cut-to-the-quick insight this titan of boardgaming discourse offers us:
“Whether one needs another game of that breed in their collection is a matter of choice that some will answer in the affirmative, while others will decline. For now, I fall on the “affirmative” side of this question.”
The Jimmy Carter Commemorative Peanut Cup for Pan-Euro/Ameritrash Friendship Outreach and Understanding
From his stunning performance as an Australian on Steve Week’s ULTIMATE PODCAST to his willingness to share intimate details of his sex life with doomed pop debutante Britney Spears, no one did more to promote the healing of wounds this accursed civil war has caused between Ameritrash fans and Eurosnoots and like a boardgaming Martin Luther King, Jr. “The Man” keeps trying to shut him down through a rotating series of bans from the Leading Board Game Site. Much like the famous song by Chumbawamba, he gets banned, but he gets on again. Mr. Skeletor’s efforts have helped many gamers weed out the cool Eurogamers (like Chappy) and the wankers (like Drew) and his unwavering commitment to being a skull-faced antagonist of cartoonishly sensitive post-teenage males is truly remarkable.
The Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Area of Fun Murdering
This is a very special award folks. It’s the first time I’ve handed out a Lifetime Achievment Award but I think this special someone deserves not only the award for Excellence in the Area of Fun Murdering but heretofore this award will be officially called “The Clearclaw”. JC Lawrence, or “Clearclaw” as he’s known the boardgaming world has taken funmurdering to entirely new heights- from his faux-academic prosletyzing to his bizarro-world insistence on playing games like EL GRANDE without the tower and leaving Christmas presents unwrapped to avoid unexpected drama and surprise. Games to this man are just mathematical equations transferred to cardboard, he hates movies, and his moving narrative of a game of THROUGH THE DESERT showed the world that stories don’t have to be any fun whatsoever. He’s the Charlie Manson and Adolf Hitler of fun murdering. Of course, since these awards are fun, I’m sure he’ll decline to accept it.
The Robert Martin Memorial Award for F:ATtie of the Year
TIE- TOM HANCOCK/BRADY
Folks, I gotta tell you…the stuff Tom and Brady are doing for F:AT is just fucking amazing. I mean, it is literally the best boardgame writing I’ve ever read and it really has set the bar unrealistically high for the rest of us. Who can forget that amazing roundtable discussion Tom had with Reiner Knizia, Rudiger Dorn, and Wolfgang Kramer where Knizia broke down in tears over the admission that he really does just pull themes out of his ass and Dorn wound up punching Kramer in the stomach after the latter called the former a “god damned copycat”. Brady’s behind-the-scenes expose on how German games are being used to distribute subliminal neofascist messages of compliance and conformity was truly shocking and I really can’t believe that child labor is still being used to hand-paint those boards. It’s really too bad that most of you can’t read these articles because you haven’t accrued enough F:ATbucks to gain access to the members-only EXCLUSIVE areas of the site. Remember this next time we have a supporter drive.
BEST USE OF THE WORD “FUCK” IN A RULEBOOK
I’m sure the milquetoasts were “concerned” when they cracked open the rulebook to one of the sleeper Euro hits of 2007- the pretty good Polish game NEUROSHIMA HEX. Here’s a few excerpts from this R-rated masterpiece:
“…Screams and howls of the wounded mixed with overwhelming roar of cannons were the Jingle Bells of 2052. Fuck Christmas.”
“Motherfucker was blasting off full auto like a machine gun, punching holes with the massive cannons. Was it really happening? Was that thing real?” When you’re fucked, you’d believe in the weirdest shit. And that was weird shit.”
“But I was alive, and no fucking robot was going to get me now.”
Funny thing is, I’ve never seen anyone else comment on it…and remembering the scandal last year where PARTHENON showed Poseidon’s penis on one of the most famous statues of the Classical era, I’m kind of surprised.
And now…the 2007 Trashie Award for the Best Game of the Year
I haven’t played it, but man, it must be great, right? I figured selecting AGRICOLA would be the best for the community and since it has such a high rating on BGG it’s obviously good. It’s the best game since sliced bread, I’m told, and I think you even get to slice bread in the game. I’ll be sending a stack of 2007 Trashies stickers to Hanno to label future editions of the game featuring the slogan “It’s dying-while-eating-shit good. Tell your ma!”
That’s it for 2007- barring Armageddon we’ll do it again in 2008!
Thursday, 20 December 2007
Yes, it's time. Over at Gameshark.com I've posted my year-end awards list. For my part, I will say that this is probably the only list you won't see AGRICOLA, RACE FOR THE GALAXY, or AGE OF EMPIRES III on when all is said and done. But hey, go look and come back here to argue. But Mike, say you, what about the 2007 Trashies? That's next week, and they're a F:AT exclusive. Gotta protect Bill Abner and co. from any litigation.