Welcome back. This is part two of my "Ode to FFG". In this week's episode we will be looking exclusively at games that the company brought back from the dead. For a bunch of nerdy guys in Minnesota, their Necromancy skills are quite high. Yes, FFG really started making a name for themselves by bringing many beloved games back to the market. Some were really terrific. They were games that made you weep a little because you never thought you'd get your hands on them. Others were a little less well received. Hey they can't all be winners!
Just to be clear, this list will only cover FFG's reprint and workings of other company's games. This list won't cover games made by other companies that FFG simply distributed. With that little caveat out of the way... onward and upwards we go!
10. Nexus Ops (Charlie Catino, Steven Kimball) – Alright, a bunch of you can grab your pitchforks early because this one is going to be SLIGHTLY controversial. You see FFG ported the game over properly and left the rules perfectly intact, where they pissed off unscrupulous gamers was with the presentation. Their version of the game featured muddy tiles and lost the cool candy colored glow in the dark minis from the Avalon Hill version. To that I say, "So what?". It's not like any of you ACTUALLY play Nexus Ops under a freakin' black light. AND at the end of the day, Nexus Ops is still the king of the DoaM genre. It's brutal , dirty, and fast. The game is like a bar fight where you just need to keep your head on a swivel and size up who you need to punch in the face. Except instead doling out uppercuts to drunkards you're melting Fungoids with Rubium Dragons! This game was damn near impossible to find for a reasonable price and FFG came in and delivered the goods. Sure the the end result looked like a guy who was wearing a suit crafted by a blind, lunatic, fashion designer. However, underneath that seizure inducing suit made of old slippers and faux raccoon hides is the most charming gentleman at the ball. Guess what? Stupid looking suit aside, he's still probably going to get the phone number of the chick you were interested in. You know why? Because Nexus Ops rules.
9. Arkham Horror (Richard Launis, Kevin Wilson) – Way back before it was cool to namedrop H.P. Lovecraft, FFG was ahead of the trends with this big box revival of a little known 80s game with the same name. FFG's drastic re-imagining of AH has a reputation for being difficult, unwieldy, long, and hard to learn. For those not put off by its seemingly wormy, obtuse, and puzzle-box design are in for a horrific adventure. The game is considered by many to be one of the ultimate adventure games with its strong penchant for memorable, narrative, moments. Players grow attached to their characters and love to see where their actions take them in this hideous and grotesque town. If/When they die it's like a tiny, Siamese twin has been excised from your hip. You feel it. Other times your character turns out to be a useless twat and feels more like a benign goiter that you want lopped off your neck by a Gug as soon as possible. You never know what to expect when you set up a game of AH. It's a box of abhorrent wonders, that CAPTIVATES players even in 2016.
8. Battlelore Second Edition (Richard Borg) – For YEARS the acquisition of Battlelore was one of FFG biggest blunders. They essentially purchased a game that was un-printable. Finally, out of the blue, the clouds parted and down came Battlelore Second Edition. Yes, they re-themed it to the wonderfully boring world of Terrinoth. Yes, they removed the historical stuff. Yes, it came with less stuff in the box. DESPITE all of that, the game became the proverbial Phoenix of legend. It not only rose from the ashes, but it has flourished to become one of the best two player, light war games on the market. This game has a hold on me like few others. I would play it all the time if I could. The new lore cards are faction specific and feel great. As the humans you feel like you've got planning, strategy, cunning and tactics at your side. As the Uthuk-whatevers, you're just dicks. They play like a bully on the playground that isn't above spitting, scratching and kicking someone in the nards. Pushing your units forward until one side is vanquished is really all you do in Battlelore. Sure there are tactics to try and sneaky lore cards to attempt. You're still chucking handfuls of dice and hoping to lop of your opponents head or shoot them in the retina with an arrow. I hope people have taken noticed because this is version of Battlelore that should have always been. They say that Memoir '44 makes grown men remember a time when they played with army men figures in their sandbox. Battlelore brings me back to the era of mass market classics like Battle Masters and Crossbows and Catapults. It's a visceral and bloody good time.
7. Android Netrunner (Richard Garfield, Kevin Wilson) – With Netrunner, FFG essentially got the rights to reprint crack to nerds. Besides Magic the Gathering, there are few CCGs that can make the masses perk up on high alert like a mob of slack-jawed meerkats. Netrunner is apparently one of them. This reprint was SO popular that it damn near became a phenomenon. For those people that have the time, money, and commitment to invest in Netrunner they must be in a euphoric state of gaming bliss. I'm not as well versed in this game as the others on this list, but the few times I've played it I was IMPRESSED. If I had the time for a lifestyle game like this I would spend an unhealthy amount of my life at local tourneys and game stores. Any game that can be THAT habit forming and bad for you MUST be amazing.
6. DungeonQuest (Jakob Bonds) – This is a game that almost didn't make the list because the first FFG reprint attempt was akin to walking in on your significant other tenderly smooching another person's left bum cheek. It was awkward, confounding, and pissed you off. Thankfully, we all dumped that cheating scumbag and fell in love with the Revised Edition of DungeonQuest. For those living in an actual dungeon, DungeonQuest is like an analog version of Don Bluth's classic videogame - Dragon's Lair. Much like that videogame, death is waiting for you around every corner, and in every monster battle. Also like Dragon's Lair, DungeonQuest is a divisive experience. I use this laughably hard dungeon crawler as my litmus test for folks I want to game with. If they get cut down by a swinging blade trap two turns in and get their panties all twisted... I'm pretty sure our gaming chackras don't match up. If they laugh, giggle, and want to experience it again, then I'm pretty sure I've found a cherished gamer and possibly a lifelong friend. Oh yeah, toss a score pad in the box. You'll want to record highscores to encourage maximum recklessness. If someone exits with a few coins and gets excited because they "won" kick them out of your house.
5. Talisman (John Goodenough, Robert Harris) – I have a hard time being objective when it comes to Talisman. It's a game that I adore. Oddly enough, I never played this when I was young. No, it wasn't until FFG put out the Revised 4th Edition that I discovered this sexy game. It was like walking into a bar full of available women and your heart gets stolen by a slightly older lady who checked off pretty much everything you've ever wanted in fantasy... um fantasy adventure that is. Wait, this is getting weird. OK, Talisman has antiquated design choices. It's roll and move. New players will have trouble getting past its seemingly cruel nature. Still there is NOTHING quite like it. The game hides decisions and depth that only become apparent after you've completely dived in. Intimate knowledge of the adventure deck, board locations, spells, and unique characters are paramount to getting good at the game. Yes, you can be struck down by dumb luck, but you can also weigh the risks vs rewards to get ahead while others blindly "roll and move". There is a reason why this game constantly gets expansion content and faithfully remains in print while several other FFG Fantasy Adventures died off. It withstands the test of time with easy to grasp gameplay, hidden depth, and game after game of memorable adventuring. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Talisman will outlive us all. In the year 2084 people will have no clue what the hell "Level 7: Omega Protocol" or "Glen More" are, but they will probably be enjoying Talisman 7th edition.
4. Merchant of Venus (Richard Hamblen) – Games that have you flying around in space ships and exploring galaxies are like catnip to me. I turn into a frenzied goober who loses his mind with excitement. Merchant of Venus is all about hopping into a space ship and discovering a galaxy. Along the way you meet crazy alien races and you sell them useless crap and SPACE COCAINE. It's essentially a pick up and delivery game with a sci-fi veneer and I'm totally OK with that. There is just something curiously addictive about racing around trying to find trade routes that are insanely profitable in a far off quadrant of space. Not to mention that FFG actually released components and rules for a completely different way to play. The new rules are more akin to something like Firefly and purist seem to hate them. I love the variety and the adventure aspects it adds. It makes you feel like you're playing Space Balls: The Board Game or something. Not a game that follows the actual plot of Space Balls. No, instead try to imagine a game where you're a down on your luck huckster flying in a spaceship Winnebago. You have runs in with shady aliens and take on awful jobs to earn a quick buck. If you've never given the New Rules a shot and you like Firefly or Xia... give em a once over and play FFG's secret design - "Lone Starr and Barf's Intergalactic Space Simulator: The Boardgame".
3. Wiz-War (Tom Jolly, Kevin Wilson) – Wiz-War is one of the most absurd, funny, chaotic, and ridiculous games ever made. Have you ever seen the Disney film, "The Sword and the Stone"? How about, "The Raven" with Vincent Price? Both of those films end with bizarre and awesome wizard duels. Since I was a child I've always longed for a game that would let you recreate that over the top showcase of wizardry. Sure there is Magic The Gathering, but it's too abstracted and serious. Wiz-War is the closest any game has come to letting me recreate this fantasy. Your hand of cards are literally fistfuls of magic for you to use in whatever creative way you can think of. You can morph into creatures, cast fireballs, stab people with knifes, or just straight up punch them in the face. The experience is unlike anything else and it really does feel like a demented wizards duel. FFG knocked this reprint out of the park with excellent cartoony artwork, cool components, and the ability to play the game as it was originally designed. This is easily one of their best reprints.
2. Fury of Dracula (Stephan Hand, Frank Brooks, Kevin Wilson) – FFG has taken many old Games Workshop properties and made them their own. None of them have been as impressive as Fury of Dracula. Hell, they've done it twice now. In its most recent edition the game is arguably at its sleekest and most playable. Gone are the silly fighting rules from the Second Edition as well as any other fat/bloat. FoD is the DEFINITIVE hidden movement game. The Gothic horror atmosphere, coupled with flourishes of the Bram Stoker novel make this one of the classier games in FFG's repertoire. Both of their editions have stunning, beautiful maps that just look spectacular on your table. The actual game is one of highs and lows. There are turns with elevated heartbeats and frantic hunter tactics, mixed in with quiet lulls as Dracula slips away in the night. It's great and a lovely way to spend an evening with friends. Pour some wine, dim the lights, put on the soundtrack to Horror of Dracula, and get ready to hunt down that dreaded vampiric fiend!
1. Cosmic Encounter (Bill Eberle, Jack Kitteridge, Bill Norton, Peter Olatka, Kevin Wilson) – It couldn't be anything other than Cosmic. Ever since FFG got their grubby mitts on this golden goose they've been making sure it stays happy and healthy. This is the definitive version of this heralded game. FFG has implemented the best rules from the past thirty years and made damn sure to only release fun content. It's also one of the easiest games to keep up with expansion wise, because it only gets a small box expansion every few years. The potential combination of playable aliens is literally absurd. You could play the game 1000 times and probably never have the same rogue's gallery of aliens at the table. For anyone living under a rock who doesn't know about this game... here's what's up. Imagine walking up to a smoke covered table in the Cantina on Mos Eisley. You see 6 bizarre alien races engaged in some sort of odd game. At a glance it appears to be a game about combat and war. However, you quickly realize that the whole thing is closer to poker. Each alien at the table can break the rules of the game, and needs to figure out how abuse that special power with the hand of cards they've been dealt. There is bluffing, negotiating, backstabbing, and lots and lots of swearing. It's like watching lighting crackle inside of a bottle - controlled chaos. The design is a thing of beauty and there is nothing quite like it. In 2016 it's less of a big deal for FFG since they're more about Star Wars and LCGs. That still doesn't lessen the impact or importance of what it means to have this title wedged in their library of games. Cosmic Encounter is so good, that I could literally sell every other game in my collection and only play this for the rest of my days. And I would die happy.