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August 07, 2003

Favorite Games XXVI

Whoops! I missed putting up a Favorite Games entry on Monday! That means today, I'll provide two titles, both by the clever designer Tom Wham...

(By the way... my list is coming to an end. I've had a request or two for follow-ups that will keep me going for a bit longer, then I may take a break through the end of the month before starting a new series. If you have a request or suggestion, feel free to drop me a note!)

Kings and Things is an odd game of almost-random armies in combat over a very random board. The board is built randomly of hexagons of various terrains, upon which you build castles and send around armies to conquer your neighbor's land. The "things" of the title are numerous creatures (plus a small number of income-enhancing terrain modifiers, special characters and magic items), drawn at random as you recruit each turn. Some are tough, some are weak. Some can fly, others barely walk. And most require a specific terrain to "support" them (forest creatures require you to control a forest, for example). However, in a delightful twist, you can bluff your army bigger with unsupported counters... Counters are moved around face down, and a large stack can trick enemies into giving up when they really could have won. Of course, as soon as an unsupported counter is revealed, it goes away, so bluff carefully. The object is to build a citadel then either prevent others from building one to match you or conquer an opponent's to give you a pair. Play with several players (4 is the full complement) and expect a bit of complex silliness. Games with fewer players must use a smaller board and are, in general, less interesting. This game went through several versions, from "King of the Tabletop" in Dragon #77, though an edition printed by West End Games in the USA and Games Workshop in the UK (which, in a much-used state, is the one I own), to the current edition from Germany (with much nicer bits, as one would expect from a German edition). Look this one up for your local gaming group; it's best near its full complement of players.

The Awful Green Things From Outer Space is a wonderful game, originating in Dragon magazine (just like Kings and Things above, though in a form much closer to its current one). It's a two-player game with distinctly asymmetric positions. One player is the crew of the Znutar, an exploratory ship that just picked up something unpleasant. The other player is that something, a quick-reproducing alien life form that wants the ship for itself. The crew (who are odd little cartoon aliens themselves) use weapons that are unpredictable when employed against the Green Things (you draw a random effect the first time you use each weapon), and some make things worse, so you have to experiment carefully and optimize what you learn; never experiment with an area effect weapon on a crowded space, just in case it decides to be beneficial to the Green Things this time around. Try not to let yourself get cornered and do NOT let the Green Things cut off a section of the ship to use as a breeding ground... you won't like that one bit! Meanwhile, if you're playing the Green Things, isolate the crew away from good weapon sources (for easier munching) and find a nice defensible corner to grow reinforcements in. The current edition (from Steve Jackson Games) has some expanded rules to let you take the fight out the airlocks and onto the outside of the ship... but it also has rather disappointingly average counters, not up to quite the abuse repeated play will put them through. Of course, at under $15, you can just buy a second copy when this one wears out.

Funagain Purchase Links
Kings and Things
The Awful Green Things From Outer Space

Posted by ghoul at August 7, 2003 06:44 AM

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Yay! Tom Wham! I always loved his games.

Posted by: Scott at August 7, 2003 11:16 AM

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