The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Spielus Obscurus

Ray Smith

November, 2000

The following are my anecdotal contributions to the land of great misfit games. I've tried to select games that I have not seen on other similar pages. If you have even heard of these games, you have faced the addiction of gaming for at least as long as I have. All of these are long past their print run, and the only value these have, that I know of, is blowing the dust off and having a grand time with them.

Yeah, I know. You've seen this one, but do you own one? If you didn't buy one of the three versions it was released in, shame on you. This early Tom Wham classic pits a flock(?) of Snits invading the inside organs of the dreaded Bolotomus. Although similar in system to his equally wonderful Awful Green Things From Outer Space, this one is different enough and just as fun.

More of a typical American style game with lots of dice rolling, moving around the board, collecting stuff, etc. But what sets this apart is its conquest aspect. Players buy and sell five different commodities before setting sail from Spain to lay claim to various regions in the Caribbean. Once a settlement is claimed, it needs to be fortified or an opponent could snatch it away from you. The strategic juggling act is deciding when you have enough provisions to go exploring and get the jump on everyone to the New World, and do you spend all of your earnings fortifying one area only to lose another. The quality of the components is super, although with some chintzy artwork. Nonetheless, gaming time well spent.

STOMP! - Tadashi Ehara (1978)
If you need to fill your "silly games" collection, keep looking for this one. Distributed by the Chaosium, this small zip-lock game pits one player as a bunch of nasty elves versus one angry giant named Thunderpumper. What makes this unique is that the giant is represented by two double-sized foot counters, while the elf counters show various tongue out caricatures staring up at you. Game play is basically the giant trying to stomp on the elves while the elves try to stake the giant's sandals into the ground then lasso him down. To add to the funfare, combat is resolved by the old pick-up method of "shooting" fingers. All together now: "Me stomp puny elves!"

FUTURE - Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation (1966)
This game has nothing to do with big business, trading, or corporate takeovers. It is a game designed by three PhD's regarding investment twenty years into the future. The smallish but very thick box is crammed with heavy duty plastic scoring tracks, huge event cards, wagering chips, money, and a large custom 20-sided percentile die. (Getting it all back in the box takes some practice.) Of the sixty future events, only fifteen are used per game, so replay is excellent. Gameplay hinges on players accurately forecasting a wide range of events from world-wide anti-poverty programs to Men landing on Mars. Each event is rated with a percent chance of success that players can manipulate through the course of play, with the winner being the most accurate predictor. I know of no other similar game to compare it to. A quick and thought provoking game that still provides some insight even fifteen years after the fact.

NOMAD GODS - Cam Stafford (1977)
This second in the Dragon Pass series that started with White Bear and Red Moon (which was rereleased as Dragon Pass by Avalon Hill) is equally engrossing and has more atmosphere than any other games I have ever played (yes, ever). Although more or less a typical hexmap "wargame" with counters representing a variety of armies, it is the special characters and alliances within the grand mythos that makes the game special, along with the wonderfully appropriate artwork of William Church and Gene Day. A simple system by today's standards, but one never equaled in presentation. Whether fending off the Crimson Bat at Dragon Pass or enticing the Fathers of the Tribes on the Plaines of Prax, the world of Glorantha always has a fabulous tale to tell.

- Ray Smith

(Editor's Note: I'd love for this to be a recurring article so why not write in with a list of your favorite obscurities?)

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