Cardboard Children: A Quick Hello

Hello youse,

This week’s column will just be a quick hello and a little update about some boardgame news. I’m busy, very busy, preparing next week’s very special Halloween edition of the column. It will feature a very special video comparing some of the zombie-themed games that are on the market, and telling you which of them is the best. But that’s next week. For now, let’s see what’s happening out there.


This is so weird.

Yesterday Stronghold Games announced that they would be reprinting the classic out-of-print game Merchant of Venus. Everyone celebrated, apart from boardgame collectors used to exploiting other gamers on eBay.

Then, later that day, Fantasy Flight Games announced that it would be reprinting the classic out-of-print game Merchant of Venus. And everyone went “Wait, what?”

Yes, it seems that there will be a Thunderdome style Battle of the Reprints, unless some lawyers intervene somewhere along the way. It looks like Stronghold Games acquired the rights from the game’s designer, while Fantasy Flight grabbed them from the publisher.

Stronghold just put out this statement:

“It has come to our attention that Fantasy Flight Games has laid claim to the license for the reprint of Merchant of Venus.
First and foremost, Stronghold Games bears no ill will towards Fantasy Flight Games over what can only be deemed as an unfortunate situation. In fact, we remain fans of Fantasy Flight’s work within the game industry.

However, over 18 months ago, we began negotiations with Mr Hamblen for the license to Merchant of Venus, finally signing an agreement recently. After much research, Stronghold Games feels very strongly that the license is solely Mr. Hamblen’s to offer, and he has selected Stronghold Games for the reprint.
In our opinion, the party that has sold the license to Fantasy Flight Games does not own the rights to this license. Mr Hamblen has also expressed to us his firm belief that the license is his alone to offer.

At this time, we are intent upon defending our and Mr Hamblen’s claim to this license, noting once again that we view Fantasy Flight in the highest regard and regret that they have been put into this position.

Kevin Nesbitt and Stephen Buonocore
Managing Directors
Stronghold Games LLC”

Exciting. It seems that Fantasy Flight maybe fucked up. Could that happen? A company that size? And with the publisher they acquired the rights from being Hasbro/WOTC? Or is it more likely that we’re seeing the traditional Big Companies Being Bastards thing in full effect? What IS strange is that Fantasy Flight are accepting pre-orders on the game, which isn’t something they normally do. It kinda looks like a shitheel move of some kind. I dunno! It’s all so weird and cool and weird!

I hope they both come out. That’s what I want to see. Will there be a race to market? Will we wait and compare both before we buy? Will we be loyal to one publisher over another? I kinda feel like supporting the little guy in this, and buying the Stronghold edition. Besides, they did an amazing job with Survive! Yeah, GO STRONGHOLD!


I played a really really great game this week. I mean, really great. I’ll be covering it in a fortnight, and you’ll probably want to run straight out and buy it. It is EFFING FANTASTIC. I’ll be able to get some more plays before we talk about it, and I’ll know for sure if it’s as deep and wide and constantly entertaining as I expect it to be.

I’m afraid that it is also another very expensive game. I suggest you start saving your pennies now.

Can you guess what it is?


There is a game at Essen right now called Alien Bastards.

I haven’t read up about it. I don’t want to know anything about it. Don’t tell me ANYTHING about it in the comments. I just want to buy a game called Alien Bastards.

That’s all.


I’m sure you all know about the game Dark Souls. You might not know where I stand on it. I think it, and Demon’s Souls before it, are two of the most important game designs of the past ten years. These are statement games. These are games that say “You are being spoon-fed. Come earn your stripes.” They are also fair games. There is no flaw in the design of these menacing, terrible things.

I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to create a tabletop game that feels like Dark Souls. A game where you are terrified at every step, and always one mistake away from death. A game where you learn the system, and improve in inches. A game that you never expect to win the first time you play.

A co-operative dungeon delving game, where you all start off far too weak to possibly survive? Some kind of system for handling death and revival? Is there a way to reward clever, smart play and allow a player to gain experience by gaining experience instead of gaining XP?

These are questions for a better game designer than I’ll ever be. I hope someone with ability is asking them too. But hey, I’ll try. I’ll try.


You might as well know that this video next week will be coming to you through a brand new video editing PC. And while a brother edits and captures and compiles through some long nights, a brother might want to play some PC games. Now is the time to give me some recommendations. I am out of the loop, PC Games-wise. For those who will undoubtedly ask, (and because I am excited about it, and because banging on about specs is what PC gamers do and I am one of you now HOORAH) the PC has an i7-990x processor, two Geforce 580s running in SLI, and 24GB RAM. So I can (I think) run pretty much anything that’s out. So recommend me some good things that are good, because I genuinely don’t know.


Yeah, told you it would be brief. But you’ll understand when you see what I have for you next week. Join me then, where you can LOOK AT MY HANDSOME FACE and LISTEN TO MY SEXUALLY ALLURING VOICE as I talk to you about zombie games. Why zombie games? Well, I’ve noticed that a lot of people, when breaking into this hobby, seem to pick up a zombie game first. People love zombies, don’t they? People are really silly.

Be here next week when shit gets REAL!


  1. pakoito says:

    “A game where you are terrified at every step, and always one mistake away from death. A game where you learn the system, and improve in inches. A game that you never expect to win the first time you play.”

    Ghost stories? Arkham Asylum?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I keep getting spam mail telling me I can “improve in inches”, are the two related?

    • kavika says:

      Yes, I’ve heard this about both games.

      Anyone played them?

      I own Ghost Stories, but it is in shrink rap until I find another gaming group. Is it totally worth the trouble?

      Along those lines: someone posted on here about starting a website the other week to begin gaming get-together, but it didn’t look like they actually started it (into that direction) yet when I went to their URL. Something about downtime town or something… Has that changed?

    • JackShandy says:

      Cave stories is the only game that has never failed me. All the groups I’ve tried it with enjoy it, some groups have a blast and go on to replay it like six times. It’s worth the effort of getting it out of the box.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      @kavika : “Is it totally worth the trouble?”

      I’d say yes. Also, you can play it solo, so you don’t need to wait if you don’t want. (obviously it’s better with more people, but so is almost everything else ever).

      It’s definately a game where you start each turn by looking at the board and thinking/saying “We’re fucked!”.

      This is also true for Arkham, but to a lesser degree – and occaisionally you might actually feel like you’re on top of things (that’s usually the point at which you lose…)

    • Ergonomic Cat says:

      Death Angel: Space Hulk is brutal, but always seems fair. I’m 1/5 so far.

  2. Fiwer says:

    Video reviews are terrible, I hope you don’t make a habit out of video updates. The entire video thing is just a fad and soon the video machines will drown in a sea of glorious text and we’ll go back to books and newspapers.

    • TimA says:

      Grrr! The DowntimeTown videos are utterly brilliant and I want more like that.

    • mjig says:

      I actually hate video reviews as well. I also hate Lets Plays, I think After Action Reports are a million times better.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      But deep down, what you really hate is your fellow man.

      ADMIT IT.

    • hypercrisis says:

      A fad? I take it you’re not familiar with Mr Florence

    • Harlander says:

      It’s a really long-lived fad.

    • BooleanBob says:

      There’s a certain threshold you have to get past with video stuff on the internet, I find. Text is cold, and clean, and even when badly written it’s rarely offensive. But once you have to deal with something warm and meaty and febrile, like a human, with their big fleshy face and accent and inflections, you have to work past that initial revulsion and gradually build a relationship of trust (one which Rab in particular seems gleefully happy to violate at any given moment in his (wonderful) vids).

      Or, y’know, maybe I’m just a sociopath.

    • colorlessness says:

      I hate most video anything on the internet, for the simple reason that I can read a lot faster than you can speak. Also, if I get bored and want to skip to the end, the written word doesn’t have such long times to cache.

  3. TimA says:

    Certainly not top-end graphics although I think it looks great, my favourite game of last year was Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Stick headphones on, turn out the lights, and immerse yourself in the beautifully crafted environments. So scary that I had to force myself to continue at parts. Incredible game.

    Also, there is a demo on Steam.

  4. McDan says:

    Why does shit always have to be real? Can it not be imagined? Much cleaner that way. A dark souls boardgame would just be one where you don’t know the rules but start playing anyway wouldn’t it? So you would literally have to learn to play the game as you, well, play the game.

  5. Eddy9000 says:

    Complete the limerick competition:

    “There once was a merchant of Venus…”

  6. hoobajoo says:

    Aside from the obvious big name series (Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Portal, Witcher) I’d personally recommend Just Cause 2, Amnesia, and VVVVVV, a sort of sampler platter of lower-profile gems. Metro 2033 is also good, and will really test your machine’s graphical might. Whenever I build a hefty beast of a computer I get a perverse joy out of running Dwarf Fortress as the first thing out of the gate. Don’t know if that’s your thing, but every PC gamer should give DF a try.

    “A game where you are terrified at every step, and always one mistake away from death. A game where you learn the system, and improve in inches. A game that you never expect to win the first time you play.” Call of Cthulhu, ’nuff said. Exalted: the Fair Folk might be of interest too, as getting “killed” doesn’t destroy the character, and the setting is incredibly alien. It’s the only really worthwhile Exalted game as well.

    • Kattullus says:

      Dwarf Fortress, absolutely. It’s a beast of a game that will either repel you or eat your brain, but in a pleasant way, like a fluffy zombie.

      Men of War won’t tax your rig, but it’s another brain-eating monster.

      I was gonna recommend some graphics heavy monster, but I can’t think of one that I’ve honestly liked enough to unreservedly endorse.

      I loved the old Downtime Town video reviews, I can’t wait to see another series.

  7. danphango says:

    link to for a taste of what we’re (hopefully) going to be seeing next week in Rob’s vid, this is him reviewing third edition space hulk and being really rather humorous to boot. be sure to watch the whole way through :)

  8. westyfield says:

    If you’re looking for PC games, STALKER is the way to go. I’d recommend starting with Call of Pripyat, as it’s easier (for me at least) to get into than Shadow of Chernobyl. As for Clear Sky, well, we don’t talk about that.

  9. wowcool says:

    I’m guessing that cool game is Cave Evil

    • Kaira- says:

      For a moment I thought I landed on some black metal band’s homesite.

    • Bisyss says:

      @Kaira- Holy crap, you weren’t kidding. I ended up watching the trailers in hopes of getting some frostbitten, blastbeating goodness. Unfortunately not, but whoever they hired to narrate is marvellously hammy.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Nah, that doesn’t look nearly expensive enough:
      The board looks like it’s made of thin card or paper
      Bear in mind, the last expensive game Rab reviewed looked like this

      If it’s something new I’m guessing Eclipse. It’s got space, war and little plastic spaceships – should be right up Mr Florence’s street.

    • Jake says:

      Could be Dreadfleet, I hope not though because I have managed to keep my excitement level for that at about 0.5 -1% but I get carried away whenever people get enthusiastic and recommend things.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      He’s already done Dreadfleet

    • Jake says:

      That’s not a review is it? That’s just getting very excited with a list of the box contents.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      True, but I still think it unlikely that a single game will get 2 whole posts devoted to it – given the vast number of games out there, and the relative rarity of these posts, so I’m placing my bets on something different.

      We’ll see who wins next week (probably neither of us, but hey…)

  10. Xercies says:

    I just went into Waterstones and there selling board games there, some of them are the usual family stuff you see but some of them are a bit more our board game area. I’m thinking of getting Discworld Ankh Morpork for my soon to be made gaming group.

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      Ankhe-Morpork is a good game. I’d recommend it. It’s very easy to learn and play, its got a gorgeous board and cards and due to the hidden personnalities/objectives each player has, there is a decent amount of strategy with each player trying to suss out the others while he/she hides her own motives. The only downside to it is that it doesnt play well with 2 players, 3 or 4 only imo.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “Ankhe-Morpork is a good game”
      I second that. It actually works well as a game even if you have no prior knowledge/love of the Discworld books – though it obviously helps if you do.

    • Xercies says:

      Thanks for the replies guys, I think I will definitely get it once I get enough people interested in my group. And thank you Waterstones for kind of making my life easier, I love Discworld and I’m sure there are many people who would as well that would go to the group.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Yes, it’s good to see Waterstones selling a “proper” boardgame on top of the usual piles of risk and monopoly variants.

  11. DrGonzo says:

    Your pc is terrifyingly powerful and I’m very jealous!

  12. BobbleHat says:

    I wouldn’t worry about not being able to run any games at full whack on that monster. I’d definitely recommend Amnesia: The Dark Descent if you fancy playing something that could make you poo your pants.

    The STALKER games are essential PC games as well; also pretty unforgiving, and astonishingly atmospheric. Be prepared for a bit of patching and tinkering first to get the best out of them though. Shadow of Chernobyl is by far the best, but Call of Pripyat is probably the most accessible.

    You could also try The Witcher and its sequel if you fancy a nice long-winded, in-depth, beardy RPG.

  13. Will Tomas says:

    Some PC recommendations:

    The Witcher 2
    Deus Ex: Human Revolution
    (for uber geeky strategyness) Europa Universalis III + all expansions.
    Frozen Synapse
    Mount & Blade: Warband

  14. razgon says:

    I love merchant of Venus and actually have a copy of it. I do wonder though, if the game is modern enough to todays standards.

  15. Chris D says:

    Hmmm, PC game recommendations. Well it all depends what you like really.

    My game of 2011 so far is Orcs Must Die. It’s fun, full of character and suprisingly smart, and you can play it as either action or strategic as the mood takes you.

    For 2010 it was Recettear, for most of the same reasons despite being an entirely different game. It can get a bit grindy later on but not until after you’ve already sunk an alarming number of hours into it.

    For someone who likes boardgames Armageddon Empires has to be in there. Part hex-based strategy, part CCG, it’s not the easiest to get into but nothing that should pose a problem for the god of games.

    The only game on my list to make that PC even think about breaking a sweat would be Total War: Shogun 2. While there may be games that are better at the high level strategy, nothing comes closer to showing you whats going on in your head during a game of Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Ok, it’s a little light on mutant monstrosities but samurai are still cool.

    Speaking of Warhammer you should totally check out Dawn of War 2. It’s a 40K strategy game on your PC. I don’t really need to say anything more, do I?

    Final pick is The Void. It’s not accessible. It’s not fun. But it is an absolutely incredible experience that challenges everything you thought games could be.

    • Jake says:

      The man has 24 (!!) gigglebytes of RAM, he doesn’t want to play Recettear. He wants games that have graphics coming out of their arse. That is so much RAM.

      I can’t think of any good games with graphics coming out of their arse though, didn’t think so much of the Witcher 2 or Deus Ex. I’d recommend Blood Bowl because it is… well it’s a boardgame but over the internet and it’s great fun.

    • Chris D says:

      You can’t criticise Recettear for not being shiny enough and then suggest Blood Bowl. Be fair.

    • Jake says:

      I totally wasn’t being fair sorry. I tried to think of a game that has graphics that would use a quarter century of RAM but can’t think of any I really liked.

  16. Thimon says:

    The boardgame as hard as Dark Souls is Magic Realm. Not only are the rules 200 pages of full text, the game itself is set up like a rouge-like. Crazy enough the game is made by the designer of Outpost whom Stronghold Games just reprinted. There were also hints about more reprints by this designer, so who knows…


  17. Colthor says:

    PC game suggestions:
    AI War is probably my favourite game I’ve played this year. Every game is different in proper meaningful ways (unless you deliberately re-play the same situation), including which units you and the AI get. Every game is a battle against overwhelming odds, that you may well lose. I spent as long with the game paused, thinking about things and looking stuff up, as with it running. It’s brilliant.

    SpaceChem is probably the best puzzle game ever, and contender for my favourite game released this year. It’s a puzzle game where you work out solutions to problems with the available tools, not just figure out what the designer wanted to do. And then you discover that somebody did it twice as fast with fewer components, so then you have to figure out how to beat them.

    STALKER and Amnesia are both great suggestions. The Void too; it’s a game that is absolutely worth playing, because it is weird and odd and unforgiving and unexplained and you might wind up hating it, but you’ll be glad you gave it your time.

  18. Megadyptes says:

    I’ve missed your face and voice since The Independint Charles Show went away.

  19. buzzmong says:

    Surely the top picture deserves a staring eyes tag.

  20. Will Tomas says:

    If they’re re-printing any board game, surely it should be Heroquest.

    • BobbleHat says:

      Dark World gets my vote, simply because my copy has bits missing and is lost in the loft somewhere. God, I had some good (and also tantrum filled) times with that game.

  21. Saul says:

    Play The Binding of Isaac. You won’t regret it. Or hopefully you will, but in a good way.

  22. Slimu says:

    Bastion. Enough said.
    Spacechem is probably the best puzzle that went out this year, so I think it deserves a chance. It’s the only game that simulates what being a software developer is all about (input, output, instructions).
    Also the STALKER and Metro 2033 are great for their atmosphere. For STALKER it’s recommended to install the STALKER COMPLETE mods. They improve everything. I’ve got a in-game shot made by me when playing it -> link to