Saturday, September 12, 2020

New English Rule Book for Dark Force

What is Dark Force?

Dark Force cards and Master Pack (starter deck) boxes

Dark Force was a German collectible card game (CCG) based on the popular fantasy role-playing game, Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). Players are rulers in the land of Aventuria, commanding heroes to lead armies and beasts to conquer their opponent's lands to win (or defeat enough of your opponent's forces or let your opponent run out of cards to win). Heroes include warriors, fantastic beings (elves and dwarves), spellcasters (casting magic spells and summoning elemental spirits, demons, or the undead), and "Blessed Ones" (priests) of the Twelve Gods working miracles.

Players could by Master Packs (starter decks) and Power Packs (booster packs) when the game launched in 1994. They also printed an "edition" boxed set of every card with gold borders to differentiate them from the random pack cards. The game had a few expansions in the years that followed. Attack Pack (1995) added more cards. Captain's Pack (1996) added all new rules for ships, fleets, ocean travel, and naval combat. Unfortunately, publisher Schmidt Spiele went out of business in 1997, bringing Dark Force to an end.

This Sounds Kinda Like Magic: The Gathering

Mountain, Plain, Swamp, and Forest "land" cards (I don't have an Island, but it is in the game)

Well, every CCG owes something to Richard Garfield and M:TG, and this one is no exception. The first edition of Dark Force launched in 1994, just one year after Magic. Whereas the locations of lands are abstracted in Magic (planeswalkers "tap" into distant lands to draw mana from them), the terrain cards in Dark Force are laid out to form a map, much like a board game. When two opposing stacks of units meet in one terrain, the cards are picked up and the players lay them out in a tactical "battlefield." Combat is its own sub-game where positioning matters, allowing for ranged attacks, flanking attacks, and heroes supporting armies.

In fact, Dark Force really reminds me of Tom Wham's Kings & Things. I am not sure if the Dark Force creators ever played K&T (the first German version wasn't printed until 1997), but there are also similarities to Tom Wham's earlier game King of the Tabletop.

Which reminds me of another story...

That time I accused Richard Garfield of Plagiarism to His Face

King of the Tabletop is a fantasy game about controlling five different land types in order to summon specific creatures to use to battle your opponent(s). Control swamps to summon a ghost or black knight, plains to summon a lion or white knight, mountains to summon dwarves or a roc, Forests to summon elves or a walking tree. Sound like the original edition of Magic? Well, Tom Wham's KotT was printed in Dragon magazine #77 back in 1983, 10 years before Magic saw print.

I ran into Magic creator Richard Garfield while walking around at an E3 convention around 2000 or 2001. I had been playing Magic since Arabian Nights and the Unlimited edition were new, so I struck up a conversation with him. I brought up the similarities between King of the Tabletop and, though I didn't specifically use the word "plagiarize," I certainly implied it.

He stated that he didn't remember KotT at the time he designed Magic. He later saw KotT after Magic had exploded in popularity and the similarities between the two games was obvious. He surmised that he probably played the game when it came out in Dragon and then forgot about it, but perhaps some elements subconsciously influenced his design when he created Magic.

Now, I see the similarities as more coincidental and thematic than anything like an intentional attempt to steal a design. I am sorry that I confronted him in the manner that I did. Richard, if you are reading this, I apologize. Game designers are often influenced by works that came before. This is how we learn and understand games and is a way that our games evolve, mature, and improve over the years. We all stand on the shoulders of many giants.

Rule Book Download

My translated rule booklet with the original German version

You can download the new English rule book from BoardGameGeek (BGG) at the following link. A BGG account is required for download. Feel free to contact me if you are unable to create an account but still want the rule book.

I translated the original Master Book rules for the game and incorporated errata from Aventurian Messenger (Aventurische Bote) magazine and the tournament rules for the Essen Open '96 tournament. This also adds the naval movement and combat rules from the Captain's Pack game expansion.

https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/208311/dark-force-rule-book-english-translation-v-10


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Three New English Rule Translations for Tsukuda Hobby's Star Wars Simulation Games

History

The history of official Star Wars strategy games typically begins with works by West End Games, starting with Star Warriors in 1987. This starfighter combat game features a hex grid poster map of outer space, a familiar piece of game equipment to science fiction board wargamer fans of Star Fleet Battles and Starfire. West End Games followed Star Warriors with two more "hex-and-counter" Star Wars games: Assault on Hoth (1988) and Battle for Endor (1989).

Tsukuda Hobby's Original Trilogy in hex-and-counter format
Photo by the author

It turns out that board wargame ("simulation game" in Japan) fans in Japan played their first official Star Wars game in 1982 with the release of Death Star (a.k.a. "The Game of Death Star Combat in Star Wars"). As you can surmise, this starfighter combat game recreates the Battle of Yavin as a ragtag bunch of Rebel Alliance snubfighters dared to strike against the Galactic Empire's dreaded battlestation, the Death Star. The somewhat complex rules rival Star Warriors in complexity, though the two games are quite different.

In 1983, Tsukuda released Hoth (a.k.a. "The Game of Battle on Hoth"), my personal favorite of the three. The Imperial walkers are huge in this game, each one has six different counters for the locations of the torso, head, and feet. The walker feet smash any other units they step on. A Snowspeeders may fire its harpoon at a walker's foot, circling its cable ("wire" in the original Japanese) around the vehicle and trip it up. If Luke Skywalker's speeder is shot down, he can become a terror on the battlefield, attacking Imperial units with his lightsaber.

Tsukuda also released Endor (a.k.a. "The Game of the Combat on Moon Endor") in 1983. The game starts with the players constructing a new game board by using terrain tiles of bushes and forest surrounding the underground bunker entrance that leads to the Empire's shield generator. The Rebel units are all hidden on the map with decoy counters and traps to spring on the Imperial forces. The Empire units are powerful, but must hunt down and find the Rebels and ewoks camouflaged in the surrounding forests. Speeder bikes have a 1-in-6 chance of smashing into a tree for every forest hex they travel through.

Who Made These Games?

Tsukuda's games were designed by the prolific game designer Atsutoshi Okada. He was a fan of Avalon Hill wargames (published by Hobby Japan) and anime (he refers to himself as an otaku) so he designed a Mobile Suit Gundam miniatures game for play at conventions. This led to getting hired by Tsukuda Hobby and designing "Squad Leader for Gundam," which became Jabro. This first game led to a wave of science fiction and anime "simulation games" in Japan from Tsukuda and others, popular enough to have their own television commercials. Okada had a six year career with Tsukuda, designing countless games for them. He also created new Dougram and Votoms games for Takara's terrific Dual Magazine. By my count, Okada-san designed and published more than 40 games in the 1980s. He took a break from game design during the 1990s, then created Panzertales: World Tank Division in 2003.

Translated Rule Book Downloads

Okada-san's Star Wars games have never been translated into English, until now! You can download my new translations of the Tsukuda Hobby trilogy at these links (Note, a Board Game Geek account is required for downloading as that site is hosting the files. If you cannot sign onto BGG, send me a message):

Death Star: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/207946/tsukuda-star-wars-death-star-english-rule-book

Hoth: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/175579/tsukuda-star-wars-hoth-english-rule-book

Endor: https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/207945/tsukuda-star-wars-endor-english-rule-book

And More in Print!

Also, I recently wrote "Destroy the Death Star," an article for Star Wars Insider magazine #195. This piece is a historical record of all the different ways players have been able to blow up the Death Star (and Death Star II) in electronic games, board games, card games, and video games over the years, including Okada-san's Death Star game. You can order a copy here: https://titan-comics.com/m/33-star-wars-insider-195/