Sunday, August 4, 2019


So, on the same page as the TSR version of THE CREATURE THAT ATE SHEBOYGAN, the 1992 TSR catalogue shows another boardgame that never saw the light of day: SUN WARS. I knew nothing of this one, so I consulted with two friends who were at TSR at the time, who agree that this must have been the project whose brief was to create a game to use all the little plastic pieces left over from a previous failed game: BUCK ROGERS: BATTLE FOR THE XXVth CENTURY.*  I suspect that this one never got beyond the basic idea and wd be surprised to learn that it got as far as a prototype, though you never know with TSR.

More interesting is the game whose name is given in the catalogue as FLASHPOINT and its designer as Douglas Niles.  I knew that about this time Troy Denning had designed an excellent boardgame called DICTATORS AND DIPLOMATS,  because I got to playtest it. What I hadn't realized, and only recently discovered, is that the game I played and the one in the catalogue were one and the same, despite having different names and being credited to different designers.  It's thus the only one of these games that I'm sure got all the way through design.

And it was a v. good game, with the players each having different victory conditions. For example, Japan wins through economic dominance, while another country might use military means to achieve its goals. And, just to make things more interesting, the players didn't know each other's end goal, at least in the playtest, though you cd get an inkling by paying attention to what the other players were doing. It felt almost as if the different players are playing interlocking games at the same time with each's actions impinging on the others.

Unfortunately, it went the way of all flesh when TSR decided to get out of the boardgame business. A shame. I think it might have fared much better in today's kickstarter world. I'm still glad I got the chance to play it, not least because this is the only time I really got to meet Troy Denning, who'd left TSR not long before I arrived, to spend his time henceforth more with novels than game design. He's remembered today mostly for DARK SUN and as the designer of D&D 5th edition (The Black Box), the last successful edition of D&D (as opposed to AD&D) by TSR.**

--John R.

*TSR had a tendency to overprint, especially when it came to anything related to Buck Rogers

**Successful that is both as a coherent game system and in sales, esp. when paired with the Rules Cyclopedia.

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