Tim Rose: First Ricochet Robot, now RoboRally!!! I love it... RoboRally is a game that deserves much more notice and support (especially since the disaster of the Radioactive expansion!).
My answer for the puzzle is below, but first I need to say something about RoboRally: As you know, RoboRally is a great game, and the possibilities for expansion/new releases are practically endless. On the net are literally dozens of new boards made by fellow Robo enthusiasts, along with more new Options and Board Elements than Wizards of the Coast ever dreamed of. At GenCon this past year I saw absolutely beautiful constructions of new boards and scenarios, even in 3D!!!! (Kudos to Mr. Mark Sellmeyer and Co. for their fine work!!) I, myself, have developed a different type of expansion/variation for the game along with a format for seasonal league play. I'm sure many other RoboRally players have developed their own ideas, be they small tweaks or massive expansions, for the game as well, simply out of their enjoyment of Twonky and his friends.
With all this enthusiastic following, I have to ask only one thing... why, why, why is there no corporate support for this game any longer? Wizards of the Coast should be releasing an expansion every year, whether it be new Boards, new Option Card decks, even new Robots!!! And if done with reasonable attention to quality, they would be successful (witness the price of the Crash and Burn expansion on eBay these days.. if you can find it at all...). The Radioactive expansion pretty much killed the game, unfortunately, because the gameplay was, to put it bluntly, frustrating. And I'm afraid WotC mistook the dismal sales for Radioactive as evidence of a decline of interest in RoboRally itself, instead of a more accurate interpretation of "This expansion is of dubious quality, and we're not buying!!"
GGA - As with most things, I suspect the answer is money. There simply isn't enough of it in RoboRally to justify its continuation. One needs to remember how large a company Wizards of the Coast is and keep this in perspective. Hasbro bought them for ~$325 million (US) on the strength of the Magic & Pokemon sales.
The other problem is the nature of boardgames themselves. In general, expansions sell only to those who purchased the original game so you're faced with an ever-shrinking audience of buyers. Since you're not starting with a huge audience in the first place, it's easy to understand why a company would rather devote its resources to the next Magic expansion than to RoboRally.
Finally, I don't see the lack of "official" support to be all that troublesome. As you mention, the net community has done an admirable job of adding to this game. True, it would be nice to have professionally printed boards and cards available but with the advances in printer technology (including what's available at print shops) a regular gamer can produce some very nice stuff. Best yet, it's free!
Aside: I appreciate the fact that WotC themselves maintain links to many of these net resources on their RoboRally page. It's refreshing that a large company recognizes this as helpful rather than a copyright infringement. I'm less appreciative of the response I received when I asked for some sort of prize to give to the winner of last month's RoboRally puzzle: "As we no longer publish the RoboRally game, we don't really have any support to give." Gee, you couldn't spare a single Magic deck?
Mike Petty: I meant to get back to you on this game [GGA - Sloppy Seconds, from September's issue], but forgot for a few days. I haven't played it, but it sounds interesting. It seems to me it might be better to count each card taken as a point rather than using the value of the card for scoring purposes. This comes from someone who doesn't play a lot of trick taking games. It's just that when I imagine playing this, it seems there's enough to keep straight without having to actually remember the totals of all those points. I like games like hearts where each heart card just counts a point. It's more manageable for a guy like me who wants to think, but not too hard. Maybe a real serious card player would like it better the other way.
I'd promise to play this for you, but I've been using all my time lately testing original designs of my own hoping to publish something with a friend in the near future. I took special note of SS because it reminded me of a game I made very recently. It's a two-player trick-taking game that scores much like yours. It could easily be played with cards from a standard deck, but I made up my own to make it easier to remember the high and low card of each suit is worth 2 points instead of one. If you'd like to see the game, it's here:
I've had some fun testing the game, but I haven't yet played it enough to know if it boils down to mostly chance. If you check it out, I'd appreciate any initial thoughts you have.
Marcel Sagel: I liked your review of the game Refugium. I haven't heard or seen it before, but I'll be looking for it now. The Netherlands aren't that far from Germany, so I'll be visiting the Essen Fair next month. Refugium will be added to the "take a close look at these games"-list.
I have a question about it, though. Is there an optimal number of players for the game? Does it play well with two or is that only a theoretical possibility (as happens a lot with multiplayer games—you can play them with two but it just isn't much fun)? Also, in what price range is this game? Tip of the day: This might be useful info to include in any further reviews on The Games Journal.
GGA - I've only played the game with 3 or 4 so I can't comment on the 2-player game. My suspicion is that it would work well but until one actually tries you never know. The game did work equally well with 3 or 4 though.
Not listing the prices of the games has been intentional. Prices can vary wildly from country to country and so it's a little harder to track down what the figure should be. Secondly, I'm not sure what currency it should be listed in. I'm Canadian, Frank Branham is American and many of our contributors (and readers) are European. I'd like the Journal to remain as "Country-neutral" as possible (within the confines of being English-language based). Finally, the fact that it's online means that anyone able to read the review should have easy access to much more practical information from internet retailers. Dissenting opinions?