The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

A Love-Hate Relationship

Ray Smith

February, 2002

Lately I have been cogitating my very hypocritical state of mind which I believe may be typical to many other gamers. As my students would say, "back in the day" I was totally negative towards the then escalating role playing craze. My addiction for any type of board or card game just could not make the transition to role-playing games. Yes, I really tried to like them. I figured that a bazillion gamers can't be all wrong! But, the only system that I could latch onto was the old Fantasy Trip from Metagaming, which expanded their early microgames Melee and Wizard. This has a more organized boardgame format to it with comfortable hex based maps and more strict movement and combat rules not governed by a gamemaster, but with enough leeway for dungeon and adventure design. (Real role-players probably wouldn't even consider it an RPG.) Even as much as I enjoyed my Fantasy Trip forays, I became a devout RPG basher. This same attitude has now transferred over to collectable sets games.

Magic: The Gathering cards Is it the overwhelming inundation of releases? Jealousy toward the Magic: The Gathering juggernaut? The thousands of devotees and vendors clambering around conventions? Just the thought makes my skin crawl, and I sneer and veer away from any games in progress. I don't really know what fosters my revulsion, but my needs for psychiatric help is even more evident now because there are a few collectable games that I actually truly enjoy!

Let's try a little self analysis. The random set collection genre has been around since baseball cards, and though I never got into them, I was a major comic book reader and collector for thirty-five years. So, collecting was ingrained in me long ago. My card play devotion harkens way back to Cribbage, and even though my older brother always beat me, I still have a fond affection for the game with tons more since added to my game closet. My first dive into collectible card games involved a safe wargame related path to The Last Crusade and Eagles. Almost like playing a board game with cards, these derived much from the exceptional groundbreaking game, and favorite of mine, Up Front. Even though I experienced a fun introduction by my nephew, my next branching was a conscientious effort not to jump on the Magic bandwagon (being the nonconformist that I am). This led me to leap into the Spellfire system by TSR, and was pleasantly surprised by this much maligned offering. Very unique card interaction. Even with all of the more recent mech and mage releases, I haven't found anything since then that I prefer.

Lately, to emphasize my plight, much of my gaming time has been given to Mystick: Domination, and Mage Knight. Mystick is a semi-collectable card game derived from tarot cards. Fabulous classic artwork, quick play, and another unique system. Play does tend to get a bit repetitive, but it hasn't worn on me yet, and you must get a color play mat for proper aesthetics. Mage Knight logo The Mage Knight phenomenon has caught even me. This collectable miniatures game system (CMG?) is extremely fun and accessible for those previously unwilling to take the miniatures plunge. For those still apprehensive with miniatures with all the added paraphernalia of scenery, I developed a player aid that I use for all my Mage Knight games and can use on any large hex map to avoid the constant measuring thing. Just grab an old set of Battletech maps and go! (I even thought of trying them with Gunslinger mapboards, but haven't gotten around to it yet.)

So, in the final analysis of my conundrum, I am an avid supporter of something I detest. Is there a doctor in the house?

- Ray Smith

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