Paul: December arrives, and with it comes a large, old man dressed in red, banging on my door after midnight with one leather-gloved fist while another tightly clutches a ragged cloth sack that smells of old skin. The crazy hours I keep means I can’t begin to claim was anywhere near asleep, but as I hold open the door to let in the moonlight, the winter air and the sight of his craggy, crumpled face, I sourly ask him what he wants and what’s in the bag.
He strikes me across the bridge of the nose with the butt of a concealed weapon. “GAMES NEWS,” he bellows, his voice heavy with rum. I wake up tied to a chair in my living room. The man rants as he paces back and forth, my head throbbing in time with every syllable.
Spittle flies from his mouth like pellets from a shotgun. I think he’s trying to tell me something about the recent HeroQuest anniversary Kickstarter and how it looks like it all went down the pan. There are lights flashing in my eyes and the inside of my skull is throbbing with a one big house party of pain. I can’t follow his words, but this is a story I already know.
Last week, Spanish company Gamezone Miniatures launched a Kickstarter for a 25th anniversary edition of the classic dungeon crawler HeroQuest. The floodgates opened and within hours the funding goal was reached, was passed, was a distant memory. Then a mister Jeremy Sites pointed out that the whole thing had been halted, those great, gleaming piles of backer gold (over $300,000 CAD) suspended in limbo. Why? Well. It turns out that, while Gamezone Miniatures may have had the rights to distribute HeroQuest, they only had those rights in Spain. While you might have expected the challenge to come from either Hasbro (owners of Milton Bradley) or Games Workshop, it was actually a company called Moon Design who stepped forward.
“Moon Design P. solicited the pause in Kickstarter because of fear that Hasbro could act against Gamezone in our crowd funding because we are using an American company on American soil. Their argument was that Hasbro could act against them as well for not impeding us in this project, even thought they are not in any way included in this project or affiliated with it,” said Gamezone, this weekend. “Moon Design… are asking for two things: An official letter from Hasbro in which it states that they, Hasbro, will neither act against our HQ25th nor Moon Design P. Design P. have also demanded a considerable sum and percentages from the Kickstarter project.”
Drama raging like the pain in my head. It’ll be interesting to see how (even if) this pans out because it looked like Gamezone were putting together a lavish, luxurious package made up of all the classic elements and many new additions. That said, there were a few rather disappointing elements that smacked of sexist, seventies-style fantasy. One stretch goal was a “female prisoner” who might “pay you generously” for rescuing her. That’s a little juvenile.
My unwelcome guest moves on to something called Illegal, a party game he says he recently heard about via BGG and which has players taking the role of dealers in… unsavoury products. Sure, I say, I guess it sounds interesting, but his eyes flare like stars in the freezing night as he grabs my collar and tells me it’s the work of Christophe Boelinger, the designer behind Archipelago, one of our favourite games of the year. A party game from the designer of that complex, canny thing? Fair enough, I suppose he has something interesting there.
For just a moment I get a glimpse into that sack as I strain against my bonds. It’s nothing if not packed with board gaming promise and, as he follows my gaze, he reaches his grimy hands in to pull forth another announcement, this one about AEG’s forthcoming Valley of the Kings. My head swims as I focus more on the dirt under his nails than anything else, but I gather this is a deck-building game about pharaohs preparing for their own funerals. That’s a pretty impressive idea, I have to concede, and I’m keen to see more than just a picture of a box, but he snatches his news away and once again buries in that bag.
He’s all over the place, returning again to Kickstarter, this time to tell me about. Secrets of the Lost Tomb, which is calmly creeping toward its $50,000 goal with plenty of time to get there. “A new Action Adventure board game set in the 1930’s Pulp Era,” Secrets of the Lost Tomb looks like a game of exploration, plundering and sometimes capitalising Nouns. For a moment, Quinns’ voice pops into my head and I remember him saying “Do board gamers not have eyes? It’s hideous. I’m going to throw up. Hang on. No I think it’s okay. That was close, though.”
Quinns! If I could only reach the phone. If I could only scoot this chair to one side, because this guy is mostly just shouting out the open window now and… oh dear, that’s not a part of the body that I want anyone to plant on the sill. He’s broadcasting his excitement about something called Hoyuk, a game where players take control of prehistoric clans and build a village together. It promises tiny houses, neolithic negotiation, bleating sheep and the excitement of owning ovens. All of this suggests a new low for dirt-scrabbling starvation, making Agricola look decadent in comparison. The game is already available in a print and play form, winning designer Pierre Canuel an award in 2007, but a more elaborate Kickstarter is due next year from MAGE Company.
I clutch the phone between my feet, noticing for the first time the great trails of mud our uninvited guest has looped about the floor. I’m about to jam my toe on the speed dial when there’s a buzz and a thud. It’s the sound of a large man being tasered and falling four stories. I look up and Brendan is home, 50,000 volts in one hand and a copy of Black Gold in the other. “Fantasy Flight are having a sale!” he shouts. “Good news for our US readers, who can get this for $20!” He waves his copy about and a fountain of trucks, cardboard dollars and oil rigs burst from the box.
It’s December. It’s always like this.