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Two Great Losses

In the last month, two major gaming companies have effectively disappeared. West End Games, one of the top five RPG companies has filed bankruptcy, and the Avalon Hill Gaming Company has been bought out by Hasbro. West End Games are most famous for eighties hits like Star Wars and Paranoia, but they have continued to produce a steady output of top quality games, including a host of supplements for their award-winning D6 system. Avalon Hill are one of the oldest gaming companies around, and have their name on classics like Diplomacy and Civilization, as well as hot new titles like History of the World and Successors.

On June 7th, West End Games stated they were filing "Chapter 11" bankruptcy, and that a small section of their staff would remain employed. However, unless another company intervenes with some financial support, it doesn't look good for WEG. This is despite recently signing a large deal with Warner Brothers and DC Comics to produce a DC Superhero game. It seems that this and their other great games may now be sold off to the highest bidder. WEG were respected throughout the industry for their revolutionary ideas of rules-light, high-action gaming, their respect for their players, and their wonderful sense of humour which pervaded all their products. They will be sorely missed.

Avalon Hill was purchased by Hasbro on the 4th of August. All Avalon Hill staff were terminated, and all products, titles and rights are now owned by Hasbro. Avalon was considered the "grandfather of board games", and they have published the biggest and best board games for the last fifty years, as well as a host of card games, computer games and RPGs. Hopefully, Hasbro will continue this standard of excellence, but gaming will not be the same without Avalon. Ex-game designer for Avalon, J.C. Connors, expressed thanks to all the companies loyal fans, and urged them to pick up copies of Civilization before it disappears forever.

Even worse than the loss of these two great companies is the message this sends about the industry. It is now barely a year since the giant TSR also collapsed and was bought out. Is this a sign that the new CCG market is drawing too much money away from core role-playing and strategy gaming products? Or is this merely a reflection of changing attitudes towards the industry? Whatever the case, these omens spell a severe downturn throughout the entire industry, one which may effect the whole future of gaming.

And the Winners Are...

On a happier note, the winners of the 1997 Origins Awards have been announced. The Origins Awards are the creation of the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, and have been rewarding the best games of the year since 1974. The nominees in each category are chosen by the Academy members, with the winner then voted by both the Academy and the public. In addition, the Academy inducts classic games into the Hall of Fame. The winners were announced at the Origins International Game Expo, which was held in Columbus, Ohio, in early July.

It was great to see newcomers AEG pick up best RPG for their debut game, Legend of the Five Rings. Pagan Publishing deservedly won best supplement for the excellent 1990's Call of Cthulthu setting, Delta Green, with best adventure coming from Pinnacle's unique Deadlands game. Pinnacle also scored for their revolutionary miniatures/RPG hybrid, Great Rail Wars. Sadly, Avalon Hill won its last ever award in a long, long line of them, for the very intelligent Successors. And older gamers will be pleased to see the venerable Nuclear War join the Hall of Fame. The winners in all categories were as follows:

Best Abstract Board Game of 1997:
Kill Doctor Lucky Designer: James Ernest (Cheapass Games)

Best Historical Board Game of 1997:
Successors Designers: Mark Simonitch, Richard Berg (The Avalon Hill Game Company)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game of 1997:
Roborally Grand Prix Designers: Glenn Elliot, Adam Conus, Tom Wylie (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game of 1997:
(tie) Wadjet: a Family Adventure Game Graphic Designer: Dee Pomerleau (Timbuk II, Inc.)
Successors Graphic Designer: Kurt Miller (The Avalon Hill Game Company)

Best Action Computer Game of 1997:
Tomb Raider Eidos Software

Best Roleplaying Computer Game of 1997:
Final Fantasy VII Eidos Software

Best Strategy Computer Game of 1997:
Sid Meier's Gettysburg Designers: Sid Meier, Jeff Briggs, Brian Reynolds (Firaxis)

Best Amateur Game Magazine of 1997:
Starry Wisdom Editors: Dustin Wright, Eric Vogt, Shannon Appel, Drashi Khendup (Chaosium, Inc.)

Best Professional Game Magazine of 1997:
Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine Developers: Jolly Blackburn, Brian Jelke, Steve Johansson, David Kenzer (Kenzer & Co.)

Best Trading Card Game of 1997:
Shadowrun Trading Card Game Limited Edition Designers: Mike Nielsen, Jim Nelson, Mike Mulvihill (FASA Corp.)

Best Traditional Card Game of 1997:
Give Me the Brain Designer: James Ernest (Cheapass Games)

Best Card Game Expansion or Supplement of 1997:
Legend of the Five Rings: Time of the Void Designer: Dave Williams (Five Rings Publishing)

Best Graphic Presentation of a Card Game of 1997:
Shadowrun Trading Card Game Limited Edition Graphic Designers: Jim Nelson, Mike Nielsen (FASA Corp.)

Best Game-Related Novel of 1997:
Planar Powers Author: J. Robert King (TSR, Inc.)

Best Game-Related Short Work of 1997:
A Forty Share in Innsmouth Author: C.J. Henderson (Chaosium Inc.)

Best Roleplaying Adventure of 1997:
Independence Day Designers: Chris Snyder, Matt Forbeck (Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.)

Best Roleplaying Supplement of 1997:
Delta Green Designers: Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, John Tynes (Pagan Publishing)

Best Roleplaying Game of 1997:
Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game Designer: John Wick (Alderac Entertainment Group)

Best Graphic Presentation of a Roleplaying Game, Adventure, or Supplement of 1997:
In Nomine Graphic Designers: Jeff Koke, Derek Pearcy, Dan Smith (Steve Jackson Games)

Best Historical Figure Miniatures Series of 1997:
Charlie Company U.S. Army Figures Designer: Bob Murch (RAFM)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Figure Miniature of 1997:
Sisters of Battle Battle Squad (Seraphim) Designer: Jes Goodwin (Games Workshop)

Best Vehicular Miniature of 1997:
Call of Cthulhu Roadster Designer: Bob Murch (RAFM)

Best Historical Miniatures Rules of 1997:
Flint & Steel Designer: Richard Kane (Clash of Arms Games)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures Rules of 1997:
Deadlands: the Great Rail Wars Designer: Shane Lacy Hensley (Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.)

Best New Play-by-Mail Game of 1997:
Middle-earth PBM Fourth Age Circa 1000 Designers: William B. Feild Jr., Peter G. Stassun (Game Systems, Inc.)

Best Ongoing Play-by-Mail Game of 1997:
Star Web Designer: Rick Loomis (Flying Buffalo, Inc.)

1998 Inductees to the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame:
Nuclear War Designer: Douglas Malewicki (Flying Buffalo, Inc.)
BattleTech Mechs & Vehicles Developer: Charles Crain (Ral Partha)
Berg's Review of Games Publisher: Richard Berg
Illuminati Play-by-Mail Designer: Draper Kauffman Adventure systems, (Flying Buffalo, Inc.)
Middle-earth Play-by-Mail Designers: William B. Feild Jr., Peter G. Stassun (Game Systems, Inc.)
The Courier Publisher: Dick Bryant (Courier Publications)
Fire & Movement Baron Publishing, Diverse Talents, Inc., and Steve Jackson Games
Strategy & Tactics Decision Games

Stupidest Game of the Issue

OK, this time I couldn't find a recent game worthy of this title. I was despairing, until while walking through my local K-Mart, I came across something which reaffirmed my faith in the stupidy of game manufacturers. In a glossy box amongst the "kiddie" board games like Guess Who and The White Unicorn it stood - Spawn: The Board Game. That's right, the darkly brutal tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil which recently became an M rated movie, has been grabbed by those bastards at Milton Bradley, run through the wringer, and turned into something suitable for ages six and above. Looking further at the game revealed lots of counters, one six-sided dice, a full colour board with Start and Finish clearly marked, and a few lovely Spawn figurines, but strangely no mention of Satan, nor any rules for slaughtering drug dealers. As I looked around in confusion, my eyes were met by thousands of Spawn action figures, Spawn costume kits, Spawn pencil cases, and probably even Spawn tea sets for all I know. Isn't it wonderful that in the name of a fast buck, toymakers can turn even the most violent and disturbing works of art into sacharine sweet mainstream merchandise? What I'm waiting for now is the Frank Miller's Sin City colouring book...

Unfortunately, that's the last we'll be seeing of the RPG News. As mentioned in the editorial, this page is being downsized because we don't have the resources to maintain it at the moment. However, you can get all the news about the industry at RPGNet, or you can subscribe to their email news service, Gaming Intelligence. If you have any comments about the loss of the news, please don't hesitate to let us know.

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