This month, T3 presents the Beautiful Plumage Awards; a few of the most attractive games I have seen, some of which may even be playable…
This is a fairly recent paragraph-based game, in the same style as the classic Tales of the Arabian Nights. In essence, players get to wander around the playing area, having encounters and (hopefully) becoming more powerful, until they can complete one of several quests. Characters start knowing nothing about the quests, but pick up various clues as the game unfolds. What makes this game special is the production; the game comes with 6 pewter miniatures, each a caricature of one of the character types in the game, plus a large number of attractively rendered floor tiles, which form the playing area as the game progresses. The main drawback? Well, with around 700 paragraphs and about 8 quests, the game has limited playability - but will still provide around 30 hours of entertainment.
"The Battle of the Dinosaurs" is a strong contender for the title of best bits in a game. It comes with no less than 64 plastic dinosaurs, with additional riders, banners, a volcano, and lava balls. It's the kind of game that draws crowds at conventions whenever you play. As for the game play, it's a very simplistic war game for 2-4 players. Each player has 16 dinosaurs, and attempts to wipe the other player's dinosaurs off the board. Players have a hand of cards, and play a number of cards each turn. Most cards allow a certain type of dinosaur to move or attack, though a few cards do weird and wonderful things. Combat is resolved by dice. The attacker uses the value of a card plus a number of dice determined by the type of dinosaur, the defender just uses the dice according to the dinosaur type. With the game as designed, combat is terribly arbitrary due to the dice used (0, 1, 2, 5, 10, 15) - just substitute 10-sided dice if this bothers you!
This probably wins the heaviest game award. The basic idea of the game is that players represent rival corporations who have landed on a planet in search of ore. Players spend action points to convert ore into equipment and carry ore back to their spaceship; the ore is represented by real rocks, and the equipment is all rendered in metal… some 84 miniatures, and 100 rocks! At the end of the game, it's the ore that scores the most points, but in the meantime, players need equipment to transport ore, hijack other players' pieces, and defend their own. The game itself is somewhere between a wargame and a resource management game, and has no luck element at all - good or bad, depending on your own personal prejudices.
The Enchanted Owl game, and a strong contender with some of the cutest pieces ever seen. Each player has four owls which have lost their heads, quite literally; each piece is a wooden silhouette of an owl with a detachable head. At the start of the game, the owls have the wrong heads. Whenever two owls land on the same space they get to switch heads, and players have to manoeuvre their owls around a maze using special dice in order to (a) get the right heads, and (b) escape through the centre of the maze.