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Spielus Obscurus 2

Frank Branham

December, 2000

While I am perhaps a bit miffed at Greg for starting a new regular feature about really obscure and eccentric games, the chance to drag folks through the oddities in my collection is one of my favorite tortures to inflict.

While these are perhaps not my favorite freakishly odd and obscure games (many more are listed on my website at http://www.gamingdumpster.com/island.html) here are some recent addenda to The Island of Misfit Games.

KRAKATOA- Xanadu

The one item on the list that I do not have. Xanadu Leisure games were the self published games of amazing designer Joli Kansil (Bridgette, Marrakesh). Krakatoa is the most eccentric I've seen. (And if anyone sees a copy, let me know.) The components are simple, lots of 12 sided dice. Each player goes through 5 phases of rolling dice, trying to get various combinations of colors, rerolling part of the dice along the way. The evil and seriously twisted part is that you are required to throw dice in such a way as to change the face on one of the existing dice on the table. So it is a unique mixture of luck and dexterity that wins this odd little gem.

VOYAGE TO CIPANGU (1982)

The game is a fairly cute game cut from the same vein that produced Talisman. Players wander around the board, gain gold, turn pirate, and explore new islands. The game has does tend to outstay its welcome, and could run to 90 minutes long.

Why am I including this game? The production is very unusual. It comes in an oversized long game box, with large cardstock ships, and a top that is spun to determine wind direction. The tiles that are turned over as you explore are nicely illustrated with unique pictures on each tile-even the blank sea tiles.

QUAKSALBE (Feuer + Flamme)

Only 25 copies of the English version were produced, but a German version is somewhat easier to find. This is a very silly trick taking game about quack doctors killing off their patients. Players may play cards on patients of any color, with the doctor with the most points of his color played on a patient collecting that patient. The twist is that if the number goes over a certain value, the patient dies, earning the doctor a negative point. The games stays amusing thanks to lots of special rules for each patient. Frankly, there is little control to help yourself, but quite a bit of room to hose other people. Short, vindictive, and morbid are the aspects to love in this game.

EVEREST

Not so much a game as an elaborate form of torture for people who think that they have mastered dexterity games like Bamboleo and Jenga. The 2 player game board is a giant vertical mountain with lots of ledges and spikes protruding from it on both sides. Each player has a set of 3 climbers linked by thread to navigate up the mountain in real time. To move the climbers, you get a little dowel with a washer hanging off it from a bit of string. And you have to loop the washer around bits of the climbers to move the up the precarious mountain. After about 15 minutes, your nerves are completely shot. The movement does stick very strongly to the theme, and really does get across the feel of hanging off the side of a mountain. (We are experimenting with longer thread lengths between climbers to see if we can actually make it to the top.)

AUF FOTOSAFARI IN OMBAGASSA - Edition Perlhuhn

Edition Perlhuhn produces very unusual handmade games in familiar red tubes. Always unusually produced, the games also vary quite a bit in quality. This could be the best one. Players drive jeeps around waterholes in Africa, trying to get pictures of various groupings of animals (on assignment cards) around one of the waterholes. Different die rolls allow you to move your jeep, or shift some of the animals. This is definitely a family game, with quite a bit of luck involved, but the strong theme, and tactical choices are quite entertaining. And the animals and jeeps are all very large wooden pieces that elicit "oohs" and "aahs" from onlookers.

MARY DOWSER - Edition Perlhuhn

Perlhuhn strikes again. This is a decent real estate speculation game, with a really odd twist. Values of land depend strongly on their proximity to the one lone well on the board. One space on the board has a randomly placed magnet under it, which will cause the metal dowsing rod to dip down. Periodically, a player will get to dowse for water. (Also trying not to give way the real water location, and trying to fake out the other players.)

HILLY BILLY - Edition Perlhuhn

Last Perlhuhn entry, and not one of the better ones, really. It is a racing game where players sell each other insurance against various nasty events. It is for the most part a very simple bluffing game tied to a simple racing game. The cars, however, are incredible handmade replicas from spare bits of metal fashioned in Madagascar.

DIE OSTER INSEL - Blatz

An Alex Randolph race game with a short playing time, nice mechanisms, and great pieces. You are racing the Moai—the large stone heads found on Easter Island. Each turn, you move any pieces of your choice. But you must place rocks in the heads of pieces you do not move. When one Moai reaches the finish line, you compare the number of stones in the first and second place Moai. The most stones between the two wins the game. The Moai are about 6" tall, and the rocks are stone pebbles.

SUPERGANG - Ludoleire

This is the French version of the Avalon Hill game Gangsters. The game is far too long for my tastes, and actually rather tedious, but the French version has an amazing combat system. When ever rival gangs meet, you set up targets representing the gang members. A very realistic-looking dart pistol is then used to take out rival gang members. The pawns in the game are painted metal, which is pretty unusual.

- Frank Branham

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