Wednesday, March 22, 2006

News and Notes from the GAMA Trade Show

By Ward Batty

I had the pleasure of attending the GTS (GAMA Trade Show) in Las Vegas last week. This is a trade show of game store retailers, distributors and publishers. While most of the games are for what I'd call the hobby-game market such as role-playing games and collectible card games, boardgames are increasing each year and a number of publishers were there with new and upcoming releases. Here are my highlights of upcoming releases.

Days of Wonder had the latest release from their successful Ticket to Ride game series by Alan Moon. Ticket to Ride is a railroad connection game, which was followed by Ticket to Ride Europe. They have won fourteen international game awards, including the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) in Germany for Ticket to Ride. Over a half-million copies of the two games have been sold to date.

The latest game in the series is Ticket to Ride - Märklin Edition. According to Days of Wonder, train hobbyists consider Märklin the premier name in the model train world. This German company has been around for over 140 years and is the world's leader in the miniature train hobby. The board for the Märklin Edition is based on a map of Germany and introduces passengers and merchandise to the Ticket to Ride game play. Ticket to Ride - Märklin Edition will be available in April.

Atlas Game has a clever road building/earthquake game called Seismic. I had the opportunity to play the game with designer Ted Alspach. Players build roads and score for the length as well as the value of the ends, but all roads lead from San Andreas, California, so players are going to lose roads to earthquakes. The game won't be available until July.

The horses are on the track. Face2Face Games is releasing a personal favorite game of mine. This great horse racing game by Reiner Knizia was released in Germany as Royal Turf and will be released this spring as Winner's Circle. While the horses move by the roll of a die, the horses can be handicapped and the payout is adjusted based on how many bets the horse received. The game play is very straightforward and the races can be exciting and fun. I'm glad to see this available again and in English for the first time.

The most intriguing new company there was Immortal Eyes Games. It is a new branch of Winning Moves and will be releasing three games this summer, Terra Nova, Conquest of Pangea and Pecking Order. Winning Moves Germany has released a number of good games that have been released in English not by Winning Moves US, which concentrates on games for the mass-market stores, but by other US companies. With Immortal Eyes Games, Winning Moves is bringing these releases in-house.

There was a lot of other news of interest from the event. For a full report, check out Rick Thornquists' Boardgamenews.com.

Imagine There's No Boardwalk

I've been reading and enjoying Bob Spitz's The Beatles and was intrigued to learn that John Lennon and George Harrison were "Monopoly fiends". In the book, Spitz quotes Art Schreiber who was one of five reporters (two American, three British) designated to follow the Beatles on the 1964 North American tour. According to Schreiber, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney played poker while Lennon and Harrison hustled him into "cutthroat" games of Monopoly. "Lennon was a fiend, and extremely competitive. He got so keyed up over the game, he had to stand up to roll the dice." Schreiber recalled that they would get to a new city and no sooner than he had checked into his room the phone would ring with Lennon wanting him to come play and the games could last until dawn.

My reporter's curiosity up, I found even more on this subject. In an article by Rick Nathanson in the Braille Monitor in 2003, Schreiber says that Lennon "wanted so badly to get Park Place and Boardwalk. He could stand to lose the game, as long as when he lost he had Park Place and Boardwalk."

Harrison was preoccupied with acquiring the B&O Railroad. "I asked him why he wanted the B&O so badly, and he never did tell me. He never did tell me much of anything. We'd play until sunrise and during this whole time George would say practically nothing."

Ward Batty is a long-time game-player who has been with the same weekly game group for over twenty years. "I understood there was a pension." is his excuse. He writes a monthly column on the business of board games for Comics & Game Retailer magazine and has written articles and reviews for The Games Journal, Scrye, Knucklebones and Games International.

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