Paul's BLOG

Don't forget to hit the refreash button on your browser to get the latest version of this page.

Latest News

I needed to look up something on the web and I saw the Zine Register #30 for the first time. Apparently someone named Tim Snyder did this two years ago in 2005. Tim, if you are reading this please feel free to contact me. I had no idea that it came out, I had thought that the Zine Register had died out after Phil Reynolds passed away. I have always felt that the name of this publication was mis-named, it should have been named "the Zine Review." A better list of zines with no opinions was Robert Sach's "The Zine List." He would mail it to anyone who asked and it was given out for free as a flyer at Atlanticon and the east coast Origins conventions. John Boardman and Robert Sach used to run the Diplomacy event there and they did a great job when they did so. But the Zine List died out after Robert died.

My sister informed me that my nephew is now in the Marines and will either be going to or already is in Iraq. Unfortunately, my sister's information is not too reliable, and she says she can't even remember the address. So Lee, if by any chance you or anyone of your comrades are reading this, please feel free to call your Uncle Paul collect, or write us at P.O. Box 2713, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034!

Brief Boardgame Reviews

In case your kids (or you) get rained in due to the weather: How about a game?
Today in this day and age, many people think board games are an anachronism. But I wouldn’t be writing this piece if I agreed with that. Board games still have their place, and in many ways is still a good entertaining social experience. And with the winter weather family get togethers the time is great for those group multiplayer and /or parent-child games. So, as much as I like computer games, here is a list of some board games that I think would make great gifts. Younger players may need adult assistance and refereeing. These games are not your run of the mill Monopoly-trivial pursuit-trouble type games. There is nothing wrong about Monopoly-trivial pursuit-trouble type games except for their lack of uniqueness. Many of the games on this following list are from a small one game company.
Pirateer Ages 8 up. 2-4 players. Dice movement. This is a Checkers like pirates game is very easy to play. One wins by bringing the treasure (a “gold” coin) back to their home port. By Mendocino Game Company.
Lord of the Rings Ages 6 up. 2-5 players. Spinner combat. This is a cooperative play game meaning all the players play against the game. The object is to defeat Sauron. By Eagle Games.
Vanished Planet Ages 8 up (with help). 1-6 players. No dice or combat. This game is a recent discovery. It is a cooperative play science fiction game. The premise of the game is that you play one of six alien people who are allied with Earth. The Earthers have been very good galactic neighbors who set up trade treaties, communication line and shared technology when suddenly it vanishes in a growing black cloud. As the cloud grows, Earth makes contact explaining that during an experiment that it entered some type of alternate dimension and traded places with this planet engulfing cloud. Earth knows how to reverse the experiment, but it needs help since it is on the wrong side of the dimension, so it send out missions to fulfill by way of communication satellite. By Vanished Planet Games.
Axis and Allies Ages 9 up (with help). 2-5 players, with team play when you have more than two players. Dice Combat. This is a very simple WWII wargame. Victory is when the enemy capitals fall. Some people feel that the game is slanted toward the allies, but I feel that is a matter of opinion. Originally by Xeno Games, now produced by Hasbro under the Avalon Hill Games Division. There are several varients using the Axis and Allies game system.
Empire Builder Ages 12 up. 2-6 players. No dice or combat. This is a build your railroad, run your train and make money. Only one player will win by having a certain level of money ($250 Million) at the end of their turn. While there is no combat, you can build your rail so as to cut off another from building rail. Rails are built by drawing them on a map of the United States (and Canada and Mexico). There are many variants of the Empire Builder system. By Mayfair Games.
Acquire Ages 12 up. 2-6 players. No dice or combat. This is a buy stocks, cause corporate mergers and make money game. Winner is the one who has the most money at the end of the game. Originally a 3M game but now being produced by some German company. Hasbro was producing it and I am sure there is plenty of those versions of the game still to be had.
Family Business Ages 10 up. 2-6 players. No Dice, cardplay combat. This is a tongue and cheek Mobster warfare. It is a not too serious 1920's era gangster gang vs. 1920's era gangster gang. Players play card that place hit contract against the other members of rival gangs. Last gang with surviving members wins. By Mayfair Games.
Twilight Imperium Ages 12 up. 2-6 players. Dice combat. This is a science fiction Axis and Allies type conquest in space. There are serveral ways to win the game: conquest, election, or victory conditions. This game is slightly more complicated than Axis and Allies. By Fantasy Flight Games.
Diplomacy Ages 14 up. 7 players, can be played with less. Maneuver Combat. Written, simultaneous Chess-like moves. The only chance in this game is you do not know what the other players will do. This game can be very cut throat. Game can be played by mail and e-mail. Large following. Easy to learn, hard to master. This game is very unique. Originally by Games Research, presently produced by Hasbro under the Avalon Hill Division.
To explain the above: even though a game may be for 2-6 players, most multiplayer games were designed for four players. Two big exceptions to this is Axis and Allies, which is perfect for 5 players, and Diplomacy, which is best with seven players. A game with no dice means you do not need a die or dice to play. Many popular parlor games use a die or dice to move (such as Monopoly). Many gamer's games the movement is fixed (depending on terrain) and the dice are used as a random combat result generator. Many combat (wargame) games are like this.

other stuff
My computer addiction.
Editors Note: I wrote the following in 2004.
A couple of years or so ago I discovered Mafaldor’s game of Space Empires IV Gold. There is a link to Malfador on my “other Links” page. Space Empires (SEIV) is a turn based computer game, something like Civilization in space. It is certainly as addictive.
In the early eighties it was SSI’s Imperium Galaticum. In the late eighties it was Interactive’s Empire. In the nineties it was Microprose’s Civilization, (although there was some Master’s of Orion and Doom in there as well). In the 2000’s, or the double ought’s, it seems to be Space Empire IV. (This is not counting Quake III for those times when I want to shut down my brain.) Not only is SEIV a Sci-Fi empire building combat game, but what made it really addictive is one’s ability to modify it. I think I am having more fun modifying the game than I am playing out the scenarios.
You can shoebox computer games into pretty much four categories. There are the turn-based, First Person Shooters, Real Time Strategy, and puzzles.
Warning! I am about to go into boring mode, explaining the obvious. I gave computer games up for Lent. So now I am substituting that with these windy explanations. Perhaps I should take up drinking or something.
Going from last to first, the puzzle games are usually single player games where the player solves puzzles. No big revelation here. I understand Myst is one such game but I have never played it. One could say that Doom is a puzzle game, since one has to solve the maze to win, but puzzle solving is really not the essence of Doom. My kids The Learning Company ‘s Reader Rabbit and Humongous Entertainment fit into this category. The Learning Company is on my SH*T LIST for not honoring the rebate they advertised, even though I bought the correct product and sent in the receipt as they required in the time they specified. So it will be a cold day in Hell before I ever knowingly buy any of their products ever again. I have nothing but praise for Humungous Entertainment products, all with work great, the kids like and were entertained with.
Real Time Strategy (RTS) games are games happening in real time. The other players, either computer or human, are doing their moving all at the same time. If you want to take a break to think, the other players are still moving and you could be eliminated by the time you are done your break. Of course, if you are playing solely the computer, you can usually put the game on pause, or save the game. The *big* attraction to a RTS game is that they tend to move faster and you can finish a game in an evening. The first RTS games I’ve played was The Ancient Art of War and Command HQ, although the famous one was Blizzard’s WarCraft. There has been many other good ones, Starcraft, Command & Conquer, Total Annihilation, Age of Empires, Cossacks, Sudden Strike to name a few. What I don’t like about the RTS games is that they are a function of your speed on the keyboard and mouse, and that there is usually a key tactic of rushing the other players base early on with your cheapest but fastest combat unit and the game is over. The RTS games devolve into a race between who can process their resources the quickest. Boring. Perhaps Sudden Strike was the lone exception to this, but I have since tired of such RTS games. Also in this category are the non-combat games like Railroad Tycoon and Sim City, and I suppose, the Sims, (although I’ve never tried the latter).
First Person Shooters (FPS) are games like Doom, Duke Nukem3D, Tomb Raider, Heavy Metal, Quake, Unreal, Halflife, Blackhawk Down, etc. It is a real time game where you are the one subject person and you see everything around you and it is your new universe. And you handle it with a shotgun. …Or Chainsaw, or rocket launcher, or sniper’s rifle, or crossbow, or plasma rifle, or banana peel of death. This seems to be the type of game that gets non gaming people excited about violence in computer games. I liked Doom and Quake since they were so fanatical, and that you, the gunman (or woman) was fighting demons straight from hell. Or Straggos or wherever. And QuakeIII Arena was really just a fancy paintball game on the computer. But some of the other FPS's are a little too real for my liking, and that I have kids who might see me playing the game is too much for me to have in the house right now. These games depend on your keyboard and mouse dexterity, which is why they are sometimes referred to as twitch games.
Turn based games (TBG) are the original games that we are all pretty much used to. Like the board games of old, Chess, Checkers and Monopoly are TBGs. Those old wargames where mostly Turned based, even the ones that had simutanious movement such as Diplomacy. And the good old computer games such as Imperium Galaticum and Civilization and MOO2 and Century Of Warfare were/are turn based. SEIV is that type of empire building turned based game. Or, for the Grognards out there who still remember SPI's Strategy I, SEIV is the Strategy I of Space faring 4X computer games.
If you like the traditional turn based game then SEIV is at least worth a Google review search. When you run into all the fan sites you will see that it is a popular game. That is even more amazing is that the game has never been sold in a store, at least not that I know of. It is totally sold by mail order and internet only. If you don't like turn based games for whatever reason, you won't like this one either.
2007 update: Space Emires V has been released. The latest patch for it as of this writing is patch 1.71. You need to run the patch for best play. The game is still very moddable. If you buy the game in a store such as Game Stop they are including Space Empires IV Delux as well. I'm seeing prices for around $15, (if you can find it, keep your eyes open).
Strategy First has picked up the distribution for the game. If you buy the game through them they will include the game StarFury. I give it the ABSOLUTE! stamp of approval.

Gaming links and e-mails:

Send e-mail to Edi Birsan. He is part of Midnight Games and he is active in supporting the Diplomatic Corps.
Send e-mail to James Burgess at burgess at Publishes The Abysinian Prince.
Send e-mail to Mr. Fred C. Davis at fredingedavis at
Send e-mail to Grant Dalgliesh. For info on Columbia games products. Columbia games specializes in the block games such as 1812 and Victory! Grant is very dedicated to customer service.
Send e-mail to Donald Greenwood. Runs the BPA, (& DonCon).
Send e-mail to Tom Howell.
Send e-mail to Paul Kenny at work.
Send e-mail to Micheal Lowrey. He's the Orphan Cusdodian.
Send e-mail to Kevin Zucker. His Napoleon era gaming site is OPERATIONAL STUDIES GROUP

return to ABSOLUTE! Online.