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Subject: GEEK OF THE WEEK: Mike Siggins (SUMO) rss

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GEEK OF THE WEEK: Mike Siggins (SUMO)

Profile: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/sumo

Geek of the week is an open forum focussed on getting to know our Geek of the Week. Join in by asking our world-travelling Geek of the Week for some tips for the travel of life or some stories of his journey thus far.

This week's Geek of the Week is a name in the hobby that most oldtimers will recognize.

For a stretch of about 5 years, Mike Siggins may have been the single most influential voice on Euro games in the English language. In the early days of the Euro game hobby, his collaboration with Ken Tidwell provided a vital lifeline to gaming developments in Europe. The Game Cabinet told most of us in the United States not only what to buy, but how to play it. Before the ready accessibility of translations by German publishers and Rio Grande games, the Game Cabinet was THE source for German rules. If they weren't there, better get out the German dictionary.

http://www.gamecabinet.com/

After a hiatus from the hobby, Mr. Siggins has returned to us with renewed zeal. Its a pleasure to begin this weeeks inquisition with a series of 20 questions.

1) I note that you have chosen the cross of St. George as your national flag. Why not the Union Jack? What do you think of devolution? What do you think of European integration. Don't you think that the Welsh would have the coolest flag on the British isles if they were their own country?

2) You have travelled to the United States many times. If there was one thing you could take from the United States and firmly implant it in the United Kingdom, what would it be? What do you think American's should take from Britain?

3) If you were driven into exile, what country would you like to go to?

4) Two years ago, you designed Shakespear: The Bard game. Do you have any particular interest in this great master of our common tongue? Have you ever been in a Shakespear play, if so, what play and role?

5) You are crazy for American sports. Why? Baseball is the national passtime in the United States, should it be? What should the national passtime of the United Kingdom be, Cricket, Rugby or Football (your kind)?

6) You list Brazil as one of your favorite movies. I should add it to my list, as I agree. However, do you think it is an Orwellian look at English society, or just the observations of someone who has been through Heathrow Airport?

7) You have supported the notion of European-American style hybrids. If you were making a Frankenstein monster, name an American game that you would marry with a European game, and how the two would intersect.

8) Every year, Matt Groenig, the genius behind the Simpsons, posts a list of "forbidden words" in his comic Life is Hell. These forbidden words are typically overused phrases and metaphors that have gotten old quickly -- "cautiously optimistic" made the list for 2005. Don't you think its high time we had a list of banned themes for German designers? What themes would you ban?

9) Over the last two years, the British Comedy, the Office, has made quite a splash in the United States. What's good on British TV that we don't know about yet?

10) You have been known to dabble in Role Playing as well. Are there any particular themes there that draw you in? Would you rather be a player character or a DM?

11) You've written some brutally honest reviews. Yet, the hobby is still a pretty small circle. Has a designer ever approached you about a review you gave him/her?

12) Do you consider yourself a contrarian? Do you avoid movies just beacuse they are too popular? Are you always the odd man out when people are ordering food?

13) Are there any game designers whose work you enjoy so much that you will purchase their games sight unseen?

14) You recently moved. Which is worse, death or moving?

15) You're a history fanatic like myself, do you read many historical works? What has been your favorite non-fiction work?

16) Gladstone or Disreali?

17) Who is your favorite painter or sculpter? When you finnish unpacking, will you have art up on your walls? If so, what?

18) What games have you played lately? What was your favorite game from Essen this year? What was your favorite game from Nurenberg this year?

19) You are a fan of historical miniatures. Do you play Warhammer games as well? What is your favorite scale, period and rulset? Are you a good painter or "best viewed at a distance?"

20) What film do you quote from most often, and what is your favorite quote from that film?

Jason
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Firstly, thanks Jason for the intro and some great questions. It is a great honour to be here. I look forward to many questions, not least from Mr Power...

Quote:
1) I note that you have chosen the cross of St. George as your national flag. Why not the Union Jack? What do you think of devolution? What do you think of European integration. Don't you think that the Welsh would have the coolest flag on the British isles if they were their own country?


I feel very much an Englishman and not British. I don't see much wrong with being proud of that fact, but defining Englishness may take the rest of the week. It is also a kneejerk reaction (or positive response!) to mainly Scots people who display their flag rather than the Union flag. I very much like the Welsh flag, which remains unsullied - it is unfortunate that the Cross of St George is often associated immediately with football (soccer) supporters - a breed apart from me.

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2) You have travelled to the United States many times. If there was one thing you could take from the United States and firmly implant it in the United Kingdom, what would it be? What do you think American's should take from Britain?


Apart from baseball, which I don't feel will ever settle here, I just like the American spirit. Not the American Dream necessarily, though it overlaps, but that sense of hard work, and positive drive, that seems to pervade society. From us? I think you need longer vacations.

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3) If you were driven into exile, what country would you like to go to?


Oh, too easy. Canada is the country where I would emigrate tomorrow. Also Italy, but I would be dead in two years from the food. So, France I guess. In years gone by top of the list would have been the Republic of California, but those earthquakes and crime... Seriously, California is close to my perfect place on earth.

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4) Two years ago, you designed Shakespeare: The Bard game. Do you have any particular interest in this great master of our common tongue? Have you ever been in a Shakespear play, if so, what play and role?


I had an interest on a par with any English citizen who is taught it at school. That it was taught so poorly in my case (too much analysis, too little imparting the flow and genius) meant that I was ambivalent. But returning to the history, and the works, while designing the game actually opened my eyes wide. Now, during the summer in Cambridge, you will find me at every open air Shakespeare performance I can get to.

My only acting role was as a townsman in Aladdin when I was about 10. It scared the tar out of me and I have never even considered doing it again.

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5) You are crazy for American sports. Why? Baseball is the national passtime in the United States, should it be? What should the national passtime of the United Kingdom be, Cricket, Rugby or Football (your kind)?


Well football is so popular here and worldwide, much to my annoyance, that is little real competition for the most popular sport. But the national pastime is cricket, and that is perfect in every respect, from watching village cricket on a balmy afternoon, to spending a day eating and drinking at Lord's. I also like rugby, but nothing like as much as I did in the 70's and 80's.

The American Sport angle is probably part reaction to soccer here, a love of sports games, and a search for exoticism in my youth. I was asked recently how I ended up as a Steelers fan, and most were taken back when I said I have followed them since the mid Seventies. One of our commercial TV stations used to show 20 minutes of Superbowl highlights a year. That was it. But the lengths I went to to see that coverage was unreal. In time, American bars opened and I ate there to watch the college games on the screen, and then it arrived in force, on TV and on the field.

I still like football, but my real love is baseball. I have been following the Phillies since 1980 as a result of picking up a Herald Tribune with a feature on Steve Carlton. He remains a hero to this day. This combined with playing Statis Pro for years, learning the game rules from scratch, and seeing the Young Pittsburgh Pirates at Chelsea Football Stadium all set the tone. I trialled out for a London baseball team, and was hopelessly outclassed by ex-pat Yanks, but found my level in slow pitch softball. I founded a mixed team and we went on to enjoy some success.

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6) You list Brazil as one of your favorite movies. I should add it to my list, as I agree. However, do you think it is an Orwellian look at English society, or just the observations of someone who has been through Heathrow Airport?


I think it is just a cynical look at society in general, with the random bombings having a historic and very current poignancy. Heathrow has to be better than Dallas Fort Worth by some margin!

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7) You have supported the notion of European-American style hybrids. If you were making a Frankenstein monster, name an American game that you would marry with a European game, and how the two would intersect.


I should think that is the easiest question on the list. A cross between Robo Rally and Torres - that is overlong, tedious and a pointless waste of time - would see me running for the hills.

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8) Every year, Matt Groenig, the genius behind the Simpsons, posts a list of "forbidden words" in his comic Life is Hell. These forbidden words are typically overused phrases and metaphors that have gotten old quickly -- "cautiously optimistic" made the list for 2005. Don't you think its high time we had a list of banned themes for German designers? What themes would you ban?


Sore point. I would never ban any theme. I think the complaints about theme overuse are born of gamers being spoilt with good games that happen to use similar themes. Too bad. Live with it. I would take Renaissance Italy games from now until I die. Anyone who remembers gaming before the German Invasion (say up until 1988) should be dreamily grateful for anything. The real issue here is theme to mechanism linkage.

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9) Over the last two years, the British Comedy, the Office, has made quite a splash in the United States. What's good on British TV that we don't know about yet?


The Gervais follow up, Extras, is actually funnier. But both are studies in painful embarrassment rather than outright humour. Outside of the odd drama and historical epic, and the brilliance of Stephen Poliakoff, there seems to be little of merit coming out of the TV at the moment.

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10) You have been known to dabble in Role Playing as well. Are there any particular themes there that draw you in? Would you rather be a player character or a DM?


I am usually drawn to historical themes, but must add Call of Cthulhu to that mix. So games like Pendragon, Bushido, Five Rings all appeal. Even the D&D campaign I ran for years was more gritty medieval than high fantasy. In the past I exclusively DM'd. Now, I love to play as long as someone is doing good work in running an atmospheric game.

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11) You've written some brutally honest reviews. Yet, the hobby is still a pretty small circle. Has a designer ever approached you about a review you gave him/her?


Yes, of course. And sometimes this becomes awkward. But not as many as you might think because I retain anonymity where possible. Now a picture finally made it onto the web, I am fair game! There are at least two miniatures hobby individuals who have threatened to thump me, and there is the famous fatwah after my review of Waldesfrust (which was a long long time ago).

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12) Do you consider yourself a contrarian? Do you avoid movies just beacuse they are too popular? Are you always the odd man out when people are ordering food?


I am unusual in my tastes, I know that, but this is not based on being contrarian, just the way I am. I will always give a movie a chance, and try to read reviews after the event.

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13) Are there any game designers whose work you enjoy so much that you will purchase their games sight unseen?


There used to be many, but I have become very careful nowadays. Knizia was an obvious candidate, but he is so diverse in his output now it is impossible to buy with confidence. Certainly Charles Vasey is a must buy, and Joe Balkoski, Randy Moorehead, and Terry Goodchild if they ever re-surfaced. I would also buy anything by the current hot new designers like Richard Sivel, Stefan Feld, Peter Prinz and the team that did War of the Ring.

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14) You recently moved. Which is worse, death or moving?


After two days this week, I might have taken that under advisement. But moving comes to an end eventually, whereas death, I think, still technically stops me reading, painting and gaming!

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15) You're a history fanatic like myself, do you read many historical works? What has been your favorite non-fiction work?


Sometimes it seems I read nothing but history. For a break I do read fiction. It is impossible to say which is my favourite work, but I enjoy the likes of William Boyd, David Lodge, Peter Ackroyd, Umberto Eco and of course Flashman.

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16) Gladstone or Disraeli?


Gladstone.

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17) Who is your favorite painter or sculpter? When you finnish unpacking, will you have art up on your walls? If so, what?


My favourite painter is Rembrandt, but it is not work I would put on the walls if that makes sense. For that I would go with Detaille, Canaletto, Gerome or any of the Dutch landscape artists.

I own quite a lot of art. Almost too much. Such is the nature of my apartment (angled loft walls and lots of bookshelves) I will have to rotate. I will start with a poster sized Enki Bilal but that is for sentimental reasons.

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18) What games have you played lately? What was your favorite game from Essen this year? What was your favorite game from Nurenberg this year?


I have been playing like a madman in recent months, almost like the good old days. Only five hours ago I finished a little known game called Twilight Struggle. My favourite Essen game is Endes des Triumvrates. It is a little early for Nuremberg arrivals.

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19) You are a fan of historical miniatures. Do you play Warhammer games as well? What is your favorite scale, period and rulset? Are you a good painter or "best viewed at a distance?"


Favourite scale is tactical and 28mm, period is Napoleonics, and I am still looking for the perfect ruleset (more than 100 sets tested...).

I don't play Warhammer except to keep my knowledge up to date for comparative purposes. I do however love Space Marines, Tau, Bretonnians and Empire troops. I have a small scale addiction to the GW LOTR miniatures.

I think I am a decent painter, but there are hundreds better. You can judge for yourself - there are plenty of pics at my website.

Quote:
20) What film do you quote from most often, and what is your favorite quote from that film?


I almost certainly over quote Wayne's World. Denied.
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I noticed Mike in your games you're enjoying Arkham Horror. A game with a very strong theme to it. How important is theme to you in a game?
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Hi Mike!!! It's always nice hearing from you. I really enjoyed reading the interview you gave Tom Vassal. I found it interesting that you found gaming to be a job for awhile which led to a burn out. You said that War of the Ring brought you back to gaming. How are things now? Are you still burning out? What games are you most excited about playing? Are there any light games you enjoy? Many of your games seem rather heavy. What are you next upcoming game designs or projects you are working on now? I noticed that you enjoy Squad Leader. Great game! Do you consider yourself a grognard or just a gaming with a appreciation for all games?

Looking forward your thread.
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Quote:
I noticed Mike in your games you're enjoying Arkham Horror. A game with a very strong theme to it. How important is theme to you in a game?


Arkham Horror is on my Hot List I think - these are games I am looking forward to playing (again) in the near future. So I haven't actually got round to Arkham yet. I will because I have heard very good things about it, but also have some concerns. Either way, one to try.

Theme is very important to me in a game. It is mistaken to say it is everything, because I also love clever mechanisms, or cards, which contribute to the theme. More specifically than theme, I am looking for atmosphere and narrative qualities. I seldom find it, but it is there in some games.

There are more thoughts here:

http://www.gamecabinet.com/editorials/Narrative.html


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Hi Mike!!! It's always nice hearing from you.


And you Robin.

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I really enjoyed reading the interview you gave Tom Vassal. I found it interesting that you found gaming to be a job for awhile which led to a burn out.


Well it was a job, in that I was being paid for writing and there were real life things like deadlines and professionalism and, most difficult, finding new things to say every month. It also felt like work (I have had jobs that don't, and I wish they were all like that).

The burn out was very clear to me. I just sat at the table playing one day and wasn't enjoying any aspect of it. As I said, I don't think everyone can or will suffer from this, but 'too many games for too long' did for me.

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You said that War of the Ring brought you back to gaming.


Yes, and Jenseits von Theben.

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How are things now? Are you still burning out? What games are you most excited about playing? Are there any light games you enjoy? Many of your games seem rather heavy.


No, I had a really long break from games and just painted instead. So I am truly back from burn out. I would say my enthusiasm is high, but not as high as before (understandably!). I am pacing my gaming, and I am making sure I do other hobbies as well. I also have a different attitude to games which I will try to explain below.

There are two aspects to this. The first is the mad rush to play every German Game that comes out. I still have this, and however many times I say I won't do it, there are days where I will play ten new games - light, medium, heavy - anything that is in a box and tempting. This coming weekend will be the same.

Balancing this is a real effort to replay games, even ones I wasn't that keen on initially, or just to try old titles for the first time.

I think the bias towards heavier games is just a strong preference, and they are the games that are likely to persist. I play light games, sometimes purely light games, but they are by their nature, ummm, disposable.

My general attitude has changed, I think because I now try to stand back a bit from the hobby (especially the politics, but as you see from the early posts I am not immune!) and not to get so caught up in the buzz. I realise that this makes me sound a little detached, but it also gives me a better viewpoint on the merits of games.

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What are you next upcoming game designs or projects you are working on now?


I am just unpacking after a house move that has seen my stuff in storage for some time. Now revealed are the boxes with all my notes and books on my cycling game, my negro league baseball design, and a game on sumo. It would be nice to do these as self published DTP games this year.

My next commercial game will be for the Lord of the Rings theatrical production: http://www.lotr.com/ After that, I would like to do a game on mythology because I don't think there has been a good, rich thematic one since Yaquinto's game. I would also like to return to the Shakespeare theme, as I have some good new angles on that. In short, I have about twelve games I want to push to publication in the next few years, but we shall see.

Quote:
I noticed that you enjoy Squad Leader. Great game! Do you consider yourself a grognard or just a gaming with a appreciation for all games?


I don't think I am a grognard at all, apart from physical age perhaps! Apart from a very few titles, I don't really like the old "total information, tons of counters, hex and CRT" wargame systems at all, preferring more modern systems like narrative, cards, area movement, low counter density, fog of war and chaos. I am very keen on the idea of the meeting point of German Games and Historical Games and I think and hope we will see a lot of these.

Ultimately I do like all games, and am happy to try almost anything. Very few games will get a veto from me, but there are a few. I don't enjoy abstracts much, purely I think because I don't get them so derive very little enjoyment.

Thanks Robin.
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Hi Mike,

Happy Geek of the Week!

Can you tell us something about the group(s) (people) you regularly or normally game with?

Oooh - and another question - what keeps you coming back to BoardGameGeek?
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sumo wrote:


Well football is so popular here and worldwide, much to my annoyance, that is little real competition for the most popular sport. But the national pastime is cricket, and that is perfect in every respect, from watching village cricket on a balmy afternoon, to spending a day eating and drinking at Lord's. I also like rugby, but nothing like as much as I did in the 70's and 80's.


So being the current Rugby World Champions and holding the Ashes do roses smell better, food taste better and leather feel softer and do you feel less curmudgeonly? I know I feel more inclined to that trait nowadays.

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I still like football, but my real love is baseball.


I too enjoy baseball (Tigers fan) but I think the amount of baseball and cricket lovers is very small to those that love one or the other. What is it about baseball that you love?

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but found my level in slow pitch softball. I founded a mixed team and we went on to enjoy some success.


One of my enjoyable pastimes in the states was mid week softball games. Are there large softball comps in the UK?

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7) You have supported the notion of European-American style hybrids.


Have you played Bootleggers? If so your thoughts?


Quote:
9) Over the last two years, the British Comedy, the Office, has made quite a splash in the United States. What's good on British TV that we don't know about yet?


What are your thoughts on the "black" humour coming out of the UK? Nighty Night, League of gentlemen, Shameless (well I consider it comedy) and what else is coming out there that us colonials should hang out for?

Quote:
15) You're a history fanatic like myself, do you read many historical works? What has been your favorite non-fiction work?


Do you have a favorite historical era? If so, why?

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My favourite Essen game is Endes des Triumvrates.


I have this on order and cannot wait to get it. So what makes this a current fave?

All the best this week with the unpacking and the GOTW.
Neil
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Hi Mike. Happy Geek of the Week week geek.
You wrote in your profile something along these lines- that T&E was done by Knizia in response to a dare from you. Can you tell us the story behind this conversation/correspondance?

Knizia has a few mentions in your personal top 10. In your opinion is he
a. God
b. a great game designer receiving his deserved credit
c. a great game designer who has become famous for being famous
d. a pen name for a female ghostwriter who lives in Ann Hathaways cottage
e. _________ fill in the blank

Jason told me that he chose you for GotW partly because you were part of gaming history (not to say you aren't part of its future too) and he wanted newer BGGeeks to know who you were.
Can you tell us any examples of feedback you have received from gamers about your works that has given you a sense of deep contentment and satisfaction that comes from knowing you have brought joy to others? What would you say is the most important contribution that you have made to gaming?

Gaming must be a big part of your life. What would be the most important contribution that games have made for you?

Having been involved in gaming for some time, could you briefly describe the timeline of your gaming history? What are some of the 'phases' you went through? Did you have a Games Workshop phase, a MTG phase, an RPG phase...?
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I have resigned as host of Geek of the Week. This is explained at:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/77979/page/2

Long live Geek of the Week.
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Moi?

Okey dokie. As part of your return, it was broadcast that you'd be starting a new print fanzine on subscription (I sent you a cheque). But you haven't followed through. Why not? Was it too much like returning to the old ways that lead to burn out?

What made you start Sumo and what made you stop?

You ran the Rules Bank for some time. Can you explain how that worked and what happened to it? (You gave me a private answer, but I'd like the audience to hear).

Do you have your own private group or do you attend at others? Do you read rules before playing games, or do you read/listen when the game is put on the table?

You seem to be one of these gamers that clears out old games to make way for new. Is that correct, and how do you decide?

Is gaming your main hobby? Do you focus much attention on it? Do you ponder certain games away from the table? Do you consider strategies to apply later, and do you follow them up? Are you methodical in your gaming?

Will Settlers ever be sold in Woolworths? Okay, you hate Settlers, Carcassonne then.
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At last, I know someone famous!
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Congrats on becoming Geek of the Week.

Fifteen questions some of which are a bit heavier – but I like hearing answers to those sort of things as I think they’re revealing of other aspects of a person’s thinking. Apologies if this takes you a half hour to answer.

As usual the first 10 are general: 5 are games related and 5 aren’t. The last 4 are just a bunch of stuff that I’m interested in. Oh and a bonus one about something in your profile.

1. Do you enjoy Party Games once in a while? If so which ones have done it for you? Do any deserve more than 5 in ratings terms?
2. You obviously very much enjoy wargames. Are there any that you are keen to play that you haven't yet got to - and why those ones?
3. Which 5 games would you say were the most pure fun you ever played? You can define “fun” in anyway you feel is right.
4. Multi-player wargames…which do you favour? You don’t seem overly impressed by Sword of Rome – fair enough. Ever wanted the time to have a go at Successors? Does the prospect of Successors 111 intrigue you? How about Pax Romana?
5. Are there any kids’ games that deserve to be rated higher than they are and why? Are there any you’d like to try out and maybe bring the kid out in yourself?
6. Which are the most interesting places you have visited, and where would you most like to go in the future (apart from Essen)?
7. Should the melting glaciers of Greenland keep us all awake at night? …Where do you stand on the whole global warming issue? Is it the biggest problem facing mankind which some folks are choosing to ignore at their peril or a colossal red-herring that gets way too much media-coverage?
8. What are the best 10 albums of all time?
9. Which three characteristics in a person do you most like and dislike?
10. Who were your 5 greatest people of the 20th Century? Name 10 if you really want to.
11. You are, perhaps, known for being blunt about things you disagree with. Is there any type of comment on BGG that really tends to get you particularly frothing at the mouth or keen to unleash some invective? (aside from this question  )
12. Do you ever feel that Euro game design is getting a bit stale these days? Have you ever groaned either aloud or inside when you’ve seen yet another game with the same mechanic you’ve played scores of times already? Name names if you like!
13. Which films and songs bring a tear to your eye?
14. When have you been most scared in your life? I mean really scared.
15. I note your interest in Captain Scarlett, Camberwick Green etc. I love those too – esp now I’ve had kids to show them to. How do you feel about the old B and W version of Robinson Crusoe (you know the one with the fantastic theme tune and incidental music)?

http://www.davidsemporium.co.uk/_SIXTEEN.html

Would you agree with the notion that both Gerry Anderson and Oliver Postgate should be knighted?
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Quote:
Can you tell us something about the group(s) (people) you regularly or normally game with?


Sure. I play at two monthly clubs, which I really enjoy, one in Cambridge and one in Milton Keynes. I regularly attend a number of mini-cons throughout the year - these include Ramsdencon, Eastbourne, DiceCon, Felixstowe, Bexcon and of course Essen. This year I will also be at The Gathering and hopefully getting up to York for Beyond Monopoly. And then there is a range of 'private' groups who I see frequently, who are often at the same cons:

My old core 'Friday Night' group in London - Paul Townsend, whom I have been gaming with for almost thirty years, Keith Winch and Richard Breese. Neither of whom are BGGeeks! Yet.

The old Sumo crew, and recent attachments, including Mike Clifford, Alan How, Mike Ruffhead, Martin Butcher, Bruce Wilson, Roy Cross, Paul Jefferies and John Neeve. I see all of these people as often as geography and work allow!

I also have a design/development group which meets as often as we can in the shape of Richard Breese, Alan How and occasionally Francis Tresham.

I am now playing some PBEM games, with Andy Merritt, Paul Mazumdar and soon Kevin Moody.

Finally there is the infamous Fat Club, where I game, usually historical stuff, with Charles Vasey, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, Gareth Simon and John Carroll.

Quote:
Oooh - and another question - what keeps you coming back to BoardGameGeek?


Well there is the reference aspect - hard to be without this if you are writing or trying to remember a designer's games - and of course the Geeklists. In the main these are forgettable, but just occasionally there is an absolute gem.

And there are also the invaluable people who share my interests - these live on my GeekBuddies list, and I am sure there will be more as I find them.
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So being the current Rugby World Champions and holding the Ashes do roses smell better, food taste better and leather feel softer and do you feel less curmudgeonly? I know I feel more inclined to that trait nowadays.


It doesn't bother me greatly, and I remember the last time we won the Ashes and that was a lonnnnnnnnnnng time ago. I was trying to explain that I don't care for soccer because of the partisan nature of, well, everything. I just enjoy a good game of rugby (like France vs Ireland yesterday), cricket or even soccer. I don't mind wo is playing, but I do support England if we are involved.

Quote:
I too enjoy baseball (Tigers fan) but I think the amount of baseball and cricket lovers is very small to those that love one or the other. What is it about baseball that you love?


I think it is almost the perfect sport. A brilliant balance of power and skill and well matched teams and athletes. But most of all I love games with throwing and catching, and more specifically fielding. There is nothing better than a diving catch of Plays of the Week.

Quote:
One of my enjoyable pastimes in the states was mid week softball games. Are there large softball comps in the UK?


Like all sports, it is on the rise, but it is still very low key. Very much London based too. There are quite a few leasgues and tounraments, and plenty of pick up games in Regent's Park.

Quote:
What are your thoughts on the "black" humour coming out of the UK? Nighty Night, League of gentlemen, Shameless (well I consider it comedy) and what else is coming out there that us colonials should hang out for?


I like it, but it is not the genius level that many accord it. I liked Relative Values too and well, actually, all Rob Brydon's stuff. Shameless I can't watch. Horrible, horrible characters.

Quote:
Do you have a favorite historical era? If so, why?


Study and history wise, and for the uniforms, I will always have the Napoleonic period at the top of the list. But for atmosphere, and interest, and almost certainly for game themes, I like the Between The Wars period - broadly 1920 to 1940.

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So what makes this a current fave?


It just works really well, is lean and mean, and has a ton of clever stuff. Great game for three.

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You wrote in your profile something along these lines- that T&E was done by Knizia in response to a dare from you. Can you tell us the story behind this conversation/correspondance?


I was doing a lot of playtesting with Reiner and Dave Farquhar at the time, and one evening we got into this dialogue about Reiner designing a real, heavy gamer's game. I suggested (having a vested interest!) that he take this seriously, to show what he could really do (such cheek!) and I think he took it as a challenge. Sure enough, some months later, Tigris emerged. I know he put an awful lot of time into the game and I still rate it in my top three all time.

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Knizia has a few mentions in your personal top 10. In your opinion is he
a. God
b. a great game designer receiving his deserved credit
c. a great game designer who has become famous for being famous
d. a pen name for a female ghostwriter who lives in Ann Hathaways cottage
e. _________ fill in the blank


b.

Possibly the greatest, in my mind, but perhaps he has lost his mojo a little as far as my tastes are concerned.

Quote:
Jason told me that he chose you for GotW partly because you were part of gaming history (not to say you aren't part of its future too) and he wanted newer BGGeeks to know who you were.


Interestingly, I think those two statements cancel each other out!

There was no doubt that for about a decade I was at the forefront, with others and with the valued help of others, of this new hobby and the Rules Bank. But it was much, much smaller then - big fish, small pond syndrome. What happened was that there were several events - my dropping out in 2000 for a break, and BGG's arrival the same month, the Internet, and the breakout game - Settlers - that blew the American market wide open. I can completely understand how gamers appearing in the last few years would never have heard of me. But that is not exactly a concern!

Quote:
Can you tell us any examples of feedback you have received from gamers about your works that has given you a sense of deep contentment and satisfaction that comes from knowing you have brought joy to others? What would you say is the most important contribution that you have made to gaming?


As many writers will know, feedback can be a rare event. Suffice to say that any one letter saying that the reader enjoyed some element of Sumo, or that I have saved them a lot of money, or alerted them to an obscure new game, or sold a designer a chunk of stuff, made it all worthwhile.

I think my greatest contribution would be Sumo and the body of reviews, discussion and articles that represents, and probably helping to build the hobby in the UK and the English speaking world in the early years. How big that contribution was, I couldn't say.

I am most proud of trying to introduce an element of analysis and depth into game reviews, and coming up with terms that are still in common use today here and elsewhere.

Quote:
Gaming must be a big part of your life. What would be the most important contribution that games have made for you?


Oh, easily the good friends I have made over the years and the great times I have had playing games, visiting conventions in the UK and abroad, and the feedback of the readers.

Quote:
Having been involved in gaming for some time, could you briefly describe the timeline of your gaming history? What are some of the 'phases' you went through? Did you have a Games Workshop phase, a MTG phase, an RPG phase...?


You mean like an archaeological layer cake? Apologies for poor memory, but here goes...

1972 to date: Boardgames as a hobby.
1974 to date: Miniatures Gaming.
1976 to 1985, 2004 to date: Role Playing Games.
1978 to 1982: Bridge and Backgammon.
1978 to date: Board Wargames - SPI, Avalon Hill etc.
1979 to date: Sports Games.
1979 to 1990: Postal Games - eg Diplomacy, Railway Rivals etc.
1982 to date: Computer Games/Consoles.
1989 to 2000, 2004 to date: German Games.
1990 to date: Trying to learn go.
1995 to 2000: CCG's but Middle Earth and Netrunner rather than M:TG.
2005 to date: PBEM Gaming.

There was no Games Workshop phase, unless you count painting figures and collecting White Dwarf.


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As part of your return, it was broadcast that you'd be starting a new print fanzine on subscription (I sent you a cheque). But you haven't followed through. Why not? Was it too much like returning to the old ways that lead to burn out?


Yes, sorry about that. It was basically that I had underestimated my domestic situation. Being between houses and living out of a suitcase for two years, however high the enthusiasm level for publishing, didn't allow for life intervening. Mea culpa.

To the contrary, I have a real desire to write again but I don't know what the right channel is. I don't feel happy with a blog, but that may work in amended form. We shall see.

Quote:
What made you start Sumo and what made you stop?


Enthusiasm and lack of enthusiasm.

Quote:
You ran the Rules Bank for some time. Can you explain how that worked and what happened to it? (You gave me a private answer, but I'd like the audience to hear).


In the early days there were very few English rule sets for German Games, even the new ones like Modern Art and Adel Verpflchtet. They were all floating around, so I decided to set up a central 'bank' where people could send me copies of rules, and I would store them and send them out to people who needed them. I also published a frequent update outlining which rules had been translated, and which were still needed. Deposits duly arrived, in numbers, and withdrawals started to go out, in bigger numbers! In the end, as the hobby grew, I had around four feet of paper, for perhaps 1,000 games and variants, and was sending out rules all over the world, often in very large packages. It took a huge amount of work just to extract and copy them. I did this for several years, until Ken Tidwell came along and suggested that the Rules Bank be put on the web at the Game Cabinet. This helped greatly as we got the more common rulesets up, and in time it became a key resource (as did the Dumpster). In time, this data set progressed through to the Geek by way of links and so on. Eventually, after about 12 years running the Bank, there were no more requests for paper based copies, so I handed the originals over to Leisure Games in London who still have them.

Quote:
Do you read rules before playing games, or do you read/listen when the game is put on the table?


For years, because I was the "designated buyer" of games, it was my job to read, and teach, rules. Now I am happy to teach or listen, but am fully aware that preparatory reading beats trying to learn on the fly every time.

Quote:
You seem to be one of these gamers that clears out old games to make way for new. Is that correct, and how do you decide?


For years I was a hoarder/collector. Then I ran out of space. Now, I am ruthless. After The Purge (when I sold around 1,300 games in 1997) I don't keep a game, however lovely the components, unless it is either a) going to get a lot of play or b) has design merit or c) is absolutely stunningly lovely (okay, I am weak). In Geek terms, anything less than a 7, and often an 8, has no chance of staying on my shelf. There are just too many good games.

Quote:
Is gaming your main hobby? Do you focus much attention on it? Do you ponder certain games away from the table? Do you consider strategies to apply later, and do you follow them up? Are you methodical in your gaming?


Along with painting and books, yes it is my main hobby. I try to keep a reasonable time allocation so that it doesn't take over my life - so I can still paint, or read, or design, or go and see a movie each week without feeling I am cheating. Yes, I ponder games much of the time but with the emphasis on mechanisms and theme rather than how to win. I don't really worry about winning. I try things and sometimes they work. Usually they don't. Methodical?

Quote:
Settlers!


Yes, I think it will be sold in Woolworths (we are almost there now) but what the appetite of the market is, I have no idea.














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Hi Mike. Glad to see you as GotW.

Just a few questions

I've heard both of your guest shots on Boardgames to Go, and I was wondering if you've considered doing a boardgaming podcast. Maybe it's just the accent, but you come across very well in the audio format.

Given the weight you give to theme-mechanics alignment, where does elegance fit in when you evaluate the quality of a game?

Do you have a German/wargame hybrid in your personal design pipeline?

I've only played Wallenstein on spielbyweb, but I have to say, your tolerance for the sheer luck of the cube tower boggles my mind a bit. Perhaps Mikhail hasn't modelled the probablilities properly, but in my experience it has several, cascading effects on play that I don't like at all. (For context, I've played a handful of traditional wargames since I was quite young, and still think Squad Leader is underappreciated) Think it's at all possible that your enthusiasm for the idea of hybrids has clouded your judgement when it comes to Wally? Note that I'm not trying to be snarky (at least about you ), just looking for your thoughts on the issue.

What are your favourite role-playing games? Are there any new (at least to you) RPGs that you are curious to try out?

BTW, Richard Breese does now have a BGG account. He posted a reply to a thread in the Reef Encounter expansion's forums.

Cheers.
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OK, Mike, a few questions for you...

1) One of the things I most enjoy about your reviews is how good they are at giving me a feel for what I'll think of the game - regardless of what you thought of it. (For example, your fairly mixed review of For Sale convinced me that it would be a game I'd really enjoy.) So - whose reviews do you find most helpful at identifying game you'll enjoy?

2) I notice you rate Extrablatt a 6, which surprises me - I would have thought it would be a good fit for you. Briefly, why does Extrablatt rate as a "good game" rather than "favorite" for you?

3) Among games before the German invasion - we'll even say before 1979, when the SdJ appeared - which games do you feel fit in best with the games of today?

4) (Particularly optional) Among the games I haven't played (read - haven't rated), which game would most strongly recommend I try?

Enjoy your week in the BGG spotlight!

Joe
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sumo wrote:
Now revealed are the boxes with all my notes and books on my cycling game, my negro league baseball design, and a game on sumo. It would be nice to do these as self published DTP games this year.


A Negro Leagues game--I seem to recall, somewhere in the mists of time, hearing that this was in some way built on/inspired by the Ironman Football DTP game--one of my favorites, but apparently something of an acquired taste in the wider gaming world. Any truth to the rumor? (I, for one, would welcome any game on the Negro Leagues in virtually any format and using virtually any mechanics.)

(My favorite Sumo article: Charles Vasey's "Chaos Gaming." Plenty of good stuff, though. Thank you!)
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1. Do you enjoy Party Games once in a while? If so which ones have done it for you? Do any deserve more than 5 in ratings terms?


I do enjoy them occasionally, and play pretty much any time I find myself in a family situation. We play Scattergories, Triv, Pictionary - all the staples.

Quote:
2. You obviously very much enjoy wargames. Are there any that you are keen to play that you haven't yet got to - and why those ones?


Actually in many respects I don't enjoy them, but I play them for the history and the challenge. There is always a list of ten or so that I am keen to try.

Quote:
3. Which 5 games would you say were the most pure fun you ever played? You can define “fun” in anyway you feel is right.


Good question, as this is different from my Top 10, for instance.

6 Tage Rennen
Metric Mile
Middle Earth: The Wizards
Rette Sich Wer Kann
Tales of the Arabian Nights (always great fun)
plus many, many other one off games that were fun because of the people, the setting, the drink, or because we got rules wrong.

Quote:
4. Multi-player wargames…which do you favour? You don’t seem overly impressed by Sword of Rome – fair enough. Ever wanted the time to have a go at Successors? Does the prospect of Successors 111 intrigue you? How about Pax Romana?


I only really favour Friedrich, and perhaps a couple of others, at the moment. The others seem far too long or just not to work.

Quote:
5. Are there any kids’ games that deserve to be rated higher than they are and why? Are there any you’d like to try out and maybe bring the kid out in yourself?


I don't really follow kids' games, there simply isn't the time or opportunity now that my godsons have grown up.

Quote:
6. Which are the most interesting places you have visited, and where would you most like to go in the future (apart from Essen)?


The places left to visit are Japan, Venice and Vienna. In the past I have greatly enjoyed the States (especially California), the Maldives, France, Italy, Sri Lanka and always Paris. Most beautiful places were Canada, Scotland, Switzerland, States, Austria and of course England.

Quote:
7. Should the melting glaciers of Greenland keep us all awake at night? …Where do you stand on the whole global warming issue? Is it the biggest problem facing mankind which some folks are choosing to ignore at their peril or a colossal red-herring that gets way too much media-coverage?


Like even the experts, I don't know. My gut feeling is that this is a temporary phase that the earth has been through many times before, but that the efforts of mankind are not exactly helping matters. I am both very concerned and completely powerless on this issue. Unless the world's governments get their act together on this, we will see how bad it gets. And the chances of that happening, with greed and self interest prevalent, are close to nil.

Quote:
8. What are the best 10 albums of all time?


The 10 best or my ten best? I'd have trouble with both, but as a snapshot, here are my current favourites:

From a Distance: Nanci Griffith
Hatful of Hollow: The Smiths
Heaven Up Here: Echo and the Bunnymen
Nevermind: Nirvana
Off the Wall: Michael Jackson
Sound Affects: The Jam
Songs in the Key of Life: Stevie Wonder
Specials: The Specials
Still: Joy Division
Tourist: St Germain

[d]9. Which three characteristics in a person do you most like and dislike? [/q]

I don't really look for anything specific. I take the person as a whole and allow for any small drawbacks (and we all have those). I am pretty certain within a few meetings whether I am going to get on with someone.

Quote:
10. Who were your 5 greatest people of the 20th Century? Name 10 if you really want to.


I don't really do heroes on that level.

Quote:
11. You are, perhaps, known for being blunt about things you disagree with. Is there any type of comment on BGG that really tends to get you particularly frothing at the mouth or keen to unleash some invective? (aside from this question!)


There were a couple recently. Theme overuse is one. Stupid comments and misplaced insults by Kobra are another. But nothing gets me that annoyed, it is a hobby after all. Just walk away.

Quote:
12. Do you ever feel that Euro game design is getting a bit stale these days? Have you ever groaned either aloud or inside when you’ve seen yet another game with the same mechanic you’ve played scores of times already? Name names if you like!


Yes generally, but no specifically. I don't think we have ever seen more than ten good games in any given year, for which we might process and eliminate many, many more. There are hardly any games that don't offer something new, but sometimes that newness is hard to spot, it is so small. Occasionally though, as with Roma and Endes des Triumvirats, Friedrich, Warchon, Jenseits von Theben, War of the Ring and Reef Encounter we see an advance worth getting excitied about. There is though, I agree, a disposable quality to many German Games.

Quote:
13. Which films and songs bring a tear to your eye?


There is no pattern I can discern here. Rarely do songs have that effect, but Nessun Dorma and some pop stuff at the right moment can send out a batch of endorphins. The last film that did anything was The Incredibles, simply because I thought it was so bloody brilliant.

Quote:
14. When have you been most scared in your life? I mean really scared.


When buying a house recently, and when (due to a freak combination of symptoms) I thought I was dying. March 1997.

Quote:
15. I note your interest in Captain Scarlet, Camberwick Green etc. I love those too – esp now I’ve had kids to show them to. How do you feel about the old B and W version of Robinson Crusoe (you know the one with the fantastic theme tune and incidental music)?


Oh, now you are talking. I loved that programme, and so few people remember it. It was on during summer holidays and the music was just mesmerising. That is one of the highlights of my childhood. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. Do you remember the Crusader one, with equally good music, and Belle and Sebastian?

Quote:
Would you agree with the notion that both Gerry Anderson and Oliver Postgate should be knighted?


Absolutely! Two of the great minds of our time.
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My Quote:
15. I note your interest in Captain Scarlet, Camberwick Green etc. I love those too – esp now I’ve had kids to show them to. How do you feel about the old B and W version of Robinson Crusoe (you know the one with the fantastic theme tune and incidental music)?


Your quote:
Oh, now you are talking. I loved that programme, and so few people remember it. It was on during summer holidays and the music was just mesmerising. That is one of the highlights of my childhood. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. Do you remember the Crusader one, with equally good music, and Belle and Sebastian?

Oh yes, and I have the CD of RC twice - the company that does it did an expansion, so I had to have it. I have the videos, too and the guy who was in it - Robert Hoffmann is doing an interview for the forthcoming DVDs...he was also in The Sea Wolves as a U Boat cptn, btw. That was a sublime peice of TV and it's still good when you see it again.

BTW, my sons now like the Banana Splits, too, as well as other stuff. Ivor The Engine, the Clangers...boy oh boy!

Belle and Sebastian - yes - great stuff. The band I was in did a song called The Singing Ringing Tree in it's honour - not the same song.
The Crusaders you'll have to remind me of. I remember Casey Jones, tho'.
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Quote:
I've heard both of your guest shots on Boardgames to Go http://boardgamestogo.com/, and I was wondering if you've considered doing a boardgaming podcast. Maybe it's just the accent, but you come across very well in the audio format.


I am only on the show to pick up women with that accent. Seriously, I would disagree! I did think the second one was better than the first, perhaps the nerves had gone.

I really doubt I could sustain a podcast on my own, and certainly don't have the hardware and software. I rely on Mark Johnson to run the show and 'bounce off', which I enjoy. My forte is writing, I think.

Quote:
Given the weight you give to theme-mechanics alignment, where does elegance fit in when you evaluate the quality of a game?


I think elegance is a part of the approach and integral to the design, tied up in the mechanisms and how it relates to the theme. I value it highly.

Quote:
Do you have a German/wargame hybrid in your personal design pipeline?


I do. I can't say any more at the moment.

Quote:
I've only played Wallenstein on spielbyweb, but I have to say, your tolerance for the sheer luck of the cube tower boggles my mind a bit. Perhaps Mikhail hasn't modelled the probablilities properly, but in my experience it has several, cascading effects on play that I don't like at all. Think it's at all possible that your enthusiasm for the idea of hybrids has clouded your judgement when it comes to Wally? Note that I'm not trying to be snarky, just looking for your thoughts on the issue.


No, not clouded. I have several reservations about the game and as I said on the podcast I don't know why it had been so successful, but very happy that it has. I like the tower. It is just a way of resolving combat that is fun and quite chaotic. People seem to like it. The farmer element seems to me to be very clever.

Quote:
What are your favourite role-playing games? Are there any new (at least to you) RPGs that you are curious to try out?


Oh, now I am back into the field there are a load of games I want to try - Serenity, Godlike, Adventure!, Capes and so on. But it is a lot easier to buy and read them than actually get sessions together.

I have played or would like to play: AD&D, Chivalry & Sorcery, Bushido, Legend of the Five Rings, Call of Cthulhu, Space Opera, Traveller, Pendragon, Runequest, Al Qadim, Ars Magica, Warhammer FRPG and I would like to try one of the LOTR systems but probably not MERP.












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Quote:
A Negro Leagues game--I seem to recall, somewhere in the mists of time, hearing that this was in some way built on/inspired by the Ironman Football DTP game--one of my favorites, but apparently something of an acquired taste in the wider gaming world.


Yes, very much based on that excellent game. I expect it to be an acquired taste and sales may struggle to reach 50!

Quote:
(My favorite Sumo article: Charles Vasey's "Chaos Gaming."


That is probably mine as well. Odd that all the favourites of Sumo are usually written by someone else!
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