Posted by Rick, gamura regulis legisperitum.
Gothic Feudal Knights
A Medieval Electronic Board Game by Rick Janssen
Published by EuroTrash Games
Last night I journeyed back in time to the medieval world of Dark Tower. In this amazing game I had to find three keys, lay siege to the tower, and defeat the enemy within. Each move was a challenge. The computer kept track, giving me secret information: pictures, sounds, surprises! Then, ahead of my opponents, I made my move. The battle was joined. I was victorious!
In 1981 an 8-year-old boy from a small Iowa town was captivated by a commercial featuring Orson Wells for a board game called Dark Tower. It was the only birthday gift he had asked for from his parents and his excitement was unequaled when the image of the electronic tower emerged from beneath the tearing wrapping paper. Cake and ice cream could not compare.
Object of the Game
Two years later, I was given my first basic D&D boxed set by my cousin for my tenth birthday. I had no one “in the know” to show me how to play, so the rules were interpreted quite liberally. In no time, I was playing AD&D and my penchant for role playing games had taken root. The more I played, the more familiar I became with the rules and realized how many mistakes I had been making over the years. Even with my rules misinterpreted, I had such a fun and rewarding experience. With games, winning is not necessarily the goal. And not needing to stringently obey every written rule to the letter is sometimes difficult for me to remember today. Above all, the object of the game is to have fun.
I grew up playing Monopoly and Life like most people did, but my taste for games didn’t stop there. As a kid, I played many games of Laser Attack, Stop Thief, and Lost Treasure. All of these games, including Dark Tower, required batteries. These were games that my friends considered “weird.” As I grew older, my taste in games changed. By high school and college, I had picked up a taste for medieval and horror themed games. My collection grew to include Battle Masters, Axis & Allies, and The Fury of Dracula. In college I also made a brief foray into collectable card games, notably Spellfire and Star Wars.
One of my friends coined the phrase “Rick Game.” The loose definition was a game nobody had heard of that usually had a medieval theme or was electronic in some way. It has since come to mean any game you can’t buy at Walmart. My wife’s family still uses the phrase, asking if we can play “Rick Games” when we get together for family functions.
Maybe it was because of the loose and confusing way I started playing D&D and my desire to know the right way, or my scientific, ordered education as an engineer. Whatever the reason, I have since become much more stringent in rules interpretations and have been labeled what some gamers refer to as a rules lawyer, or gamura regulis legisperitum.
I remember attending GenCon in Milwaukee, WI, and seeing this peculiar new game with numbered hexes of different terrain types. It involved building settlements and resource management and scoring victory points. It was Settlers of Catan and it was unlike anything I had played before.
This new type of game was different in that the rules were concise and explicit. There were lots of little wooden pieces. And did I mention Victory Points?!? Though the luck factor was significant in Catan, it was minimal in this new category of game it introduced to me: the Eurogame.
Up until now, my collection was almost entirely what are affectionately referred to as Ameritrash games. Eurogames were a new breed to me. Briefly, a Eurogame is generally structured with a loose theme and little to no chance. Chess would be the penultimate Eurogame; set rules, a very loose theme, and no chance. . . you win or lose solely on your skill or your opponent’s lack of it. Ameritrash games, on the other hand, are all about theme. The rules may be vague in some instances and there is usually a fair amount of chance involved. Role playing games (though not technically board games) are the epitome of Ameritrash games; theme is its essence; rules must constantly be improvised, and characters literally live or die by the roll of the dice.
My collection is currently at around 130 games and slowly growing. There are many categories of board games above and beyond Eurogame and Ameritrash, and my collection has examples of nearly every kind. Categories often overlap, so it is impossible to peg any particular game as one specific type. I will discuss the different categories of board games in future posts.
As we grow older, the time we have to devote to gaming decreases. Friends get married and have kids, our jobs become more demanding of our time, and life keeps speeding up. For me, getting married actually increased the time I had to play games. My wife also played “normal” games growing up, and introducing her to “Rick Games” went very smoothly. Initially, she played my games with me because I wanted to. But now she has come to love them and actually initiates games almost as much as I do. Before I was married, I had to wait for the weekends to get together with my friends to play games. Now I have a live-in gaming partner. The only down side to this arrangement is that the mix of games has changed from multiplayer, medieval battles lasting hours and hours to two-player games that we can wrap up in less than 60 minutes. We can sometimes get multiplayer games in, too, as her family likes to play games when we get together. The pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Our first child was born on Christmas Day, 2010. We are adjusting to being new parents and this also cuts deeply into our game playing time. Oddly, we still manage a couple of games a week on average. I look forward to teaching my son the gaming hobby I love. I hope his interests follow mine or I have a LOT of board games that will never see the light of day again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: You mentioned CCGs, but only talked about board games and role playing games. Do you still play CCGs?
A: No. I stopped playing CCGs after college. It took too much money and time and I didn’t have a group of players dedicated to it anymore.
Q: Can you expand on what is a Eurogame or Ameritrash game?
A: I hope to write a future article discussing the differences between EG and AT games as well as other subjective categories of games.
Q: What is your favorite game today?
A: The game that has the most plays for me and is definitely one of my favorites is Arkham Horror. Look for a review of this game and its numerous expansions in future blog posts.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I’m a mechanical engineer and work for a bearing company primarily designing cylindrical and tapered roller bearings. I live in Lake Zurich, IL, a northwest suburb of Chicago.
Q: Do you have any pets? And do they like to play games?
A: Yes. I have a boxer/pit bull mix named Loquacious (Loqui) and a collie/chow mix named Ubiquitous (Ubi). The only game they seem to like to play is tricking their owners into standing up so they can steal the newly vacated nice, warm seats.