Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Bushido Kenshi Tokens



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Game Spotlight - Omen: A Reign of War


It has been a while since I featured independent game designer John Clowdus, and his company, Small Box Games, but his new game, Omen: A Reign of War, looked so good I had to get my hands on a copy. I just got the game yesterday and I had to get some pictures up right away. The artwork for the game is by Michael "Riiven" Ng.

Omen box back
The reviews are coming in, and they are good. Matt Drake, in a glowing review said, "the best all-around game play Small Box Games has released so far." 

Men With Dice's Scott B says, "In short – with Omen, Small Box Games has a winner on its hands, one that will have no problem hitting the table regularly and often."

There is also a video review by Marcowargamer on Youtube.

Opening the box
I have not had the chance to play yet, but I'll say this - the art and design work in this game is as good as I have seen. The rules are clear and well laid out and the artwork by Riiven is nothing short of fantastic. I am not a big fantasy fan, but these paintings are stunning and fit the theme of the game well.

Omen is a two player game where the players take on the roles of half god brothers competing for Zeus' favor. The goal of the game is to score points (represented by  gold coins) by winning battles in the cities to collect reward cards, and to complete the challenges presented
The contents revealed
 by the gods to gain feat cards.

The gold coins are functional, composite tokens and Small Box Games has also included stickers, but I may upgrade them with something more thematic and metal.

One thing to bear in mind as you look at the pictures is to remember that the box is only 
Gorgeous art
slightly bigger than two decks of full size cards. This is a compact game, but it is packed with strategy. 

I took the opportunity to ask the game's designer a few questions and he also gives a little peek into the game's future.

Savage Tales - You have sold quite a few games through your company Small Box Games. Which ones have been the most successful and which ones are you most fond of?

Stickers for the Coins
John Clowdus - Irondale is one of my favorite designs.  It’s also been our top selling game the past year.  A Lone Banner has been pretty popular too, and I’m pretty proud of that one as well, mainly for how streamlined it is.  With the treatment that Omen received in comparison to my other designs, you can tell that that’s the game I’m most fond of.

Do you have any other publishing news that you want to tell us about? 

Seii Taishogun is slated to be published by
Omen card faces
 Z-Man Games sometime this year.  I’m hoping that Sweet Teeth, a  kid’s card game, ends up getting picked up this year as well.  Things are going pretty good with that one, but nothing’s final till it’s final, ya know?

Omen: A Reign of War is your newest game. How much time has passed from the first ideas until now, when the game is released?

I’d had the idea for Omen bouncing around in my head for a while. I’d been putting it off because of the scope and art require- ments of the game. It needed to be
Omen card backs
stylistically different from our other games to make it work.  Finding an artist had been difficult, so it was just sort of on the back burner.

Your previous games have a nice, clean, design sense. This time you went with a completely different look, with painted art. When did and how did you decide that you wanted to do something that didn't match the look established in your line of games?

Omen Unit, Feat, and Reward Cards
I stumbled onto Michael on a Magic the Gathering website.  I liked his style, and took a chance and shot him a pm.  We hit it off from the start, and everything just sort of came together.  I wanted to give him as much creative control as possible, so I sent him brief descriptions of what I was wanting for each art, and he just went to town. Most of the time, totally blowing my initial idea out of the water with what he brought me.  Not a bad “blow out of the water,” at all.

The card backs
The production values of this game are really nice. The cards feel great in the hand, and the art is fantastic. At what phase of production did you find Riiven? How much description did you give him and did seeing the art change the design of the game?

I already had the unit abilities in mind when I sent him the ideas, but one thing that was initially included ended up getting dropped.  Initially, all of the soldiers were affiliated with one of the six gods represented in the game.

Unit Card back
That ended up getting cut from the end game, but you can still see similarities in abilities and art for the pairs of soldiers that belonged to the same god.

Omen is designed for two players. Do you have plans to expand the game for 4 players or to create any other kind of expansion?

In the end, Omen will have a total of 40 units to choose from.  16 units (8 additional Soldiers, 4 additional Beasts, and 4 additional Oracles) will be released in an expansion. 

Feat Card back
With that number of units available, 4 players will be able to make 4 separate decks using the deck building rules, and will be able to game together in a mini Swiss tournament.  

Of course, that really depends on how successful the base game is.  Things are going well now.  Our hope is that interest will be high enough that each player will want to purchase his own copy of the game, and be able to build his own deck to play against other players who have done the same thing, hopefully making a tournament
Reward Card back
environment possible.  But, that’s a long ways off.  We’re just trying to keep the game in the forefront, and hope that it keeps getting the positive buzz it’s been receiving.

Is there anything else you'd like the readers to know about this or any other upcoming games?

Just check us out if you haven’t already.
Sample Beast cards
We’ve got a pretty varied catalog of available titles, all relatively inexpensive.  We’ve pretty much got something for every gamer or game group, and we’d love for you to give us a shot!

Thanks, John for taking the time out of your day to fill us in on what's happening at Small Box Games.
Example Soldier cards
Sample Oracle cards



Coins and their stickers

One of my favorite paintings by Riiven


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Bushido Kenshi Pt 1

The Rising Sun Troops part 2

The two troopers in the Peoples Force One are both melee fighters, but they use radically different fighting styles to get their results.

The Japanese Army recruits the best sword and hand to hand fighters into their elite corp of Bushido Kenshi fighters. These men are experts with the Katana and their bare hands and feet. In the Army, these follow the waves of arrows fired by the Kyūdō division, and the charge of the Yari troops, but the People's First is a Commando force that has little use for long range weapons and recruits only the finest experts in personal combat.

Next Week - Tokens and Abilities!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Tumor


Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Noel Tuazon
Hardcover book published by Archaia.

Nominee - 2011 Eisner Award Best Graphic Album-Reprint
Tumor, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon

Tumor is an "LA noir" written by Joshua Fialkov and tells the tale of private eye Frank Armstrong dealing with a missing girl and his inoperable brain tumor. Frank is slipping around in time and the events of the present are informed by the events of Frank's past and vice versa.
I picked up Tumor at Wondercon after talking to the wonderful Archaia employees and taking advantage of their buy 2 get 3 free convention deal.

Tumor is told in a two black and white styles. The 'now' portions are stark black and white inked drawings while the flashbacks are keyed to a greyscale washed style. This makes for an easy mental shift for the reader while Frank is reeling from his  confusing path of memory and reality.

The story is touching and rough shod, brutal and poignant. The take is wrenching for both the characters and the readers. I heartily recommend this bit of grit.

Tumor's original release was individual issues published digitally. It was released monthly (and did well) on Kindle and was then published as a hardcover, novel sized volume. The book has thick, cream colored, ragged edged pages and a stylish foil stamped cover. From the outside, the book looks like a Noir novel. On the inside, it is a can't-put-down read that I finished over the weekend.

Tumor is a great piece of detective fiction and a rewarding read. I give Tumor a 9 out of 10. This is great stuff.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #24

February 1935 - Red Snow

The story starts in the Florida Everglades and it doesn't take long to for Doc and his men to get there. In this adventure we have Doc, Monk, and Ham. Doc is looking into mosquito eradication techniques, but is attacked the minute that his baggage arrives at the Miami hotel.

The attackers are wearing blackface, but it is obvious they are Caucasians in disguise when the greasepaint rubs off.

After the attackers are driven off, Doc's trunks and luggage are collected, but blood drips from a bullet hole in one of the trunks. The trunk is opened and there is a dead man inside. This revelation leads to a series of events that are punctuated by a terrifying Red Snow. Yes, the Red Snow is capitalized throughout the book.

The snow falls to the ground and turns everything in its path to dust. People are turned into statues, but if they are later touched, they crumble to a fine powder. Trees and cars are disintegrated and left to blow away in the gulf breeze.

The 'girl' in this book is Nona Space. It is her actions that cause Doc to admit that he can't read women very well. He has spend very little of his life with females and they remain a mystery to him.

At one point, Doc uses the nickname Andy Blodge for Monk. That was new to me. When clews (that's the spelling in these stories), lead Doc and his crew along the beach to an abandoned development on the outskirts of Miami, there are several references to the Great Hurricane. These refer to the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane that killed 2500 people in Florida and over 4000 total as it devastated Puerto Rico and other islands before hammering the state.

The chase to stop the Red Snow weapon leads across the Florida peninsula to the Everglades and finally, to another victory of the Man of Bronze over the forces of darkness and anarchy.

Chris Kalb's site again provided the interior art and these wonderful letters to the editor from the February, 1935 issue:

"MARY KAYE, Canada.
      Allow me to congratulate you on your success at publishing so very fine a magazine as the Doc Savage. The October issue was the first I had read, but, not like so many other magazines I had tried, my last. The stories are all that can be called for in stories, and my only regret is that it is issued but once a month.
      Kindly enroll me as a member of your club.
      Wishing the magazine, the club, and you, the publishers of the magazine, the best of luck."

"BYARD SOOY, JR., New Jersey.
      I am fourteen years old and a sophomore in high school, and have been reading Doc Savage for nearly a year. When we have to hand in book reports, I always report on the current issue of Doc Savage and the teacher herself got interested in the magazine because the report I gave was so interesting, now every month she gets the Doc Savage Magazine. The story that I liked the most was the "Sea Magician."

      I think the Code is great. It can't be beat. As I intend to teach physical culture and muscle building in a very short while, I intend to impress the Code upon all my pupils. My, what a world this would be if every one would comply strictly with this Code."

Red Snow is part of the early Doc Savage adventures and Lester Dent was on a roll, cranking out one good yarn after another. I'll give it an 8 out of 10.

 For this review I read my beat up Bantam paperback #38, purchased 35 years ago used for 45¢. The original pulp cover was painted by Walter Baumhofer and the haunting and beautiful paperback cover is by James Bama. The interior illustrations are by Paul Orban. This is one of the rare cases where the painting of the Baumhofer cover is available and it is beautiful.

Next Pulp... The Wave

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Equipment Cards Arrive

Tannhäuser Equipment Cards

Box Contents

What's next from FFG? Here are my predictions:

- Matriarchy Troop Pack - with any luck NOT Voivodes, but probably more of those.
- Another Mercenary - Sneaky Sniper Woman (although she may be Reich).
- Fourth Faction with new maps.
- Reprint on Yula

If FFG was going to stop making expansions, it is my opinion that they would not have put out the Equipment Cards. If the line was dead, why bother to pay for the layout and printing?

Here's what I would make:
- The Fourth Faction (Rising Sun) with all new maps and finish printing all the existing tokens.
- Heavy Paper Map Pack with 6 new maps - a couple of linked ones and 4 new freestanding ones. These would be printed double sided on heavy paper.
- Mercenary troops - 2 packs of 2.
- Jackal Mercenary Hero Pack.
- Card pack converting all Tannhäuser figs to Dust Tactics and vice versa.

What do you want to see?