Saturday, 23 June 2012

Living in a Box: Big Box Games 1988-92

Don't you just love the big box game feeling?

I last truly felt it a few years ago with the 21st century version of Space Hulk. It arrived in an impressive cardboard box. It had a hefty weight. The shrink wrap resisted my fingers ever so slightly. Once peeled off, I experienced that wonderful moment when you first lift the lid...

Whuff! Is the sound as the air escapes and there... there are the glorious contents all ready to be examined. I wonder what that is for, you think? Oh, I remember seeing that in the advert, you say to yourself. Spreading the contents out on the carpet, you organise everything (though you are careful not to open any of the little plastic bags) into little piles before you reach for the manual...

Then there is the new big box smell...

Heaven!

So what ever happened to the big box game? Sure, we had 3rd Edition Space Hulk and I dread to mention, Dreadfleet (which I own, haven't even got around to cutting the miniatures off the sprues) in the last 10 years or so but apart from that, nothing.

The most successful big box game of modern times. Dan and I have played this a lot over the last couple of years. A masterpiece of gaming!

Both Dan and I bought this set too but have, as yet, not got around to even playing it. 

Inquisitor was a good attempt back in '99. But that didn't come in a box. And I have always felt that I was a shame that the game didn't take off. All the parts were there; metal models, narrative games, plenty of complex rules... perhaps that was the problem. What, I cannot do a tournament with this ruleset? I cannot abuse the rules and locate loopholes to win because winning is the MOST IMPORTANT THING IN GAMING LOL!!!!

I remember the days when GW released new games regularly; not rehashes or new editions. New games. In a box.

They were the days eh?

Classic Big Box Game Count Down

1) Adeptus Titanicus

This is THE GAME for us collectors. I've seen a copy go for £125 on eBay recently and I am desperately in need of a copy but it will have to wait for a year or two due to new child commitments. I have never actually seen a copy or even played this game and THAT needs to change. So I cannot really comment on how it plays. I always loved pouring over the images in WD back in the day and always loved Titans as a concept. It was the polystyrene buildings that came with the set that I really wanted to paint up and handle- I'm a strange one really. Any readers know any more about this game?

2) Dark Future

Another game on the countdown I have never seen or played. At the time, I was a fantasy head and Mad Max gaming was far from my interest zone. Today, the concept of collecting those tiny figures and converting up die cast cars is very appealing. Still, it will have to wait until after the 'Grand Plan' is complete before I begin work. Still, I'd definately purchase a copy if I could. As with Adeptus, any readers out there own this game or have played it to pass comment?

3) Space Hulk (1st Edition)

Ahh! The first game on my list that I actually played, though sadly I didn't actually own it. My friend Russell Parsons was a fanatical player of this game and I recall many a happy summer afternoon back in '89 playing this in his kitchen. The blips! The blips! What a fantastic game concept. Richard Halliwell's masterpiece! This is low down on my collection priority list, as I have the 3rd Edition copy of it.

4) Space Marine (1st Edition)


Now I owned a copy of this game. I remember reading about it in WD and being amazed at the amount of miniatures you got with the game, especially considering the price! Little did I realise that the models would be tiny, tiny, tiny... Still, that didn't prevent me from really enjoying this game. I bought up many of the additional forces boxes and really abused them with poor painting. Sadly, its all gone now. I sold my remnants on eBay some years ago. Not that I regret it, for one day I shall buy a nice decent copy and relive those epic battles (hopefully with Adeptus Titanicus alongside) of the Horus Heresy before it was ret-conned to death.

5) Advanced Heroquest

My Step Brother Richard got this for Christmas in about 1991. We played it all holidays and I was very envious of him. I loved the henchmen rules and the campaign system. Though my favourite feature was the way the GM placed each section of corridor as you explored the dungeons. Like Heroquest, this provided almost infinite opportunities for gaming. The downside was the lack of enemy types. The skaven made perfect enemies but things were not a varied as Heroquest. Still, with a healthy collection of Citadel lead, this game will be fantastic to play again.

6) Advanced Space Crusade

I got this game for Christmas 1990. I remember my Dad trying to hide it in the loft and having to wait until the 25th to get my hands on it. It was very different. The brightly colour gaming boards, the Space Marine scouts and of course, the Tyranids with their dreadful weapons. I'd love a new copy of this to paint the models up nice a brightly, a la Mike McVey. I recall many a frantic game of this in my old bedroom and plenty of solo play action too. Much like Space Marine, I totally wrecked the set and still find pieces of the miniatures lying around in dusty old boxes in the garage.

7) Mighty Empires



I know very little about this big box game. I understand that it was kind of an expansion to 3rd edition in the way of campaign management but was a stand alone game too. It used the same models as the popular Dragon Masters game by Ian Livingstone. Boradgamegeek describes it as follows;
"Mighty Empires is both a strategic layer to the Warhammer Fantasy Battle system and a boardgame in its own right. It allows players of the miniature game to manage a kingdom, explore the world, and attempt to conquer other kingdoms, but it also can be played standalone as a fantasy wargame. The game board is constructed with hexagonal tiles to create a unique land with mountains, hills, river valleys, lowlands, and coastal areas. The game comes with some nifty bits representing armies, castles, cities and villages."
Certainly sounds interesting. Anyone played this one and can comment further?


8) Blood Bowl (2nd edition)

Now this is a game and its the only one on my list that I have a mint copy of. I loved Blood Bowl back then. I had a school friend, Matthew Pitman, who bought this and collected a great deal of the metal figures. I recall his spare room being a shrine to the game and can remember playing dungeon bowl there. One day I shall collect all of the metals released for this, including the 1st edition ones. I loved the humorous nature of the game (anyone remember popped khorne?) and all the additional rules; chain saws, refs, cheerleaders... The list goes on. A true classic.

So there we have it! Have I missed any games? What strikes me the most is all this creativity was unleashed on the world over about 4 and half years. Its was an incredible achievement by a company at the height of its creative powers. Sure, some others came later; Gorkamorka and Man O'War but both of these were under development around the same time as these and are mentioned here and there in early 90s WDs but they were Kirby's babies rather than Ansell's so don't really belong on this list. Necromunda too, owe its heritage to Confrontation too, an early form of the skirmish game set in the Rogue Trader universe and published in WD.

I was incredible to experience it at the time and I guess that is why people like me keep coming back to these games and the miniatures that were released alongside.

As this is a retro blog, this post demands your memories too. How many of these games did you play back in the day? Do you still own them? Are they still played amongst your gaming group?

Enjoy!

Orlygg.

24 comments:

  1. I used to own Mighty Empires and sold it years ago on Ebay. *sob*

    It is a fantastic game. The mini-game of creating your own hex-map is fun in its own right. I never used it as a campaign setting for wargames, but I think it would work really well.

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  2. You never played Dark Future!!!! NO!!!! How can you have never played Dark Future? I spent years finding a pristine box and contents on eBay. I'll have to paint up the contents now and mock you with it!

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  3. I enjoyed playing Space Crusade and Advanced Heroquest at a mate's house back in the day.
    I had a later edition of Space Marine and its resurrection is on the to do list sometime this century...

    Also came into possession of Bloodbowl 2nd ed. and Man O War a while back. I've got various teams and fleets waiting to be painted up for both.

    Like you I'd really love to track down Titanicus and Mighty Empires but have never played either. There is Battle of the Five Armies too which looks amazing, although its not particularly old school.

    I've also always fancied picking up some of the smaller games like Chainsaw Warrior, Blood Royale, Oi Dats my leg and such like.
    Which reminds me of the many great games of the Games Workshop Dr Who game I enjoyed!

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  4. Great post! I much prefer the cartoonish tile art on 1st ed Space Hulk to the 3rd edition - a true classic game.

    I've never played any of the others - I know Heroquest has a lot of devotees as does Man o'War (missing from your list - tsk, tsk!) I read a rumour recently that Blood Bowl may well be the next limited edition boxed game from GW.

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  5. Dark Future was available in pdf form -- for free! -- from Games Workshop's website until recently. It disappeared during a site update and although they promised it would return, it's not back yet. That absence did make some people think it might be due for a re-release, but that was probably wishful thinking. It was one fat pdf with the core rules, the companion and all the White Dwarf articles; I remember being surprised that GW, notorious for their money-grabbing and hostility to older games and editions, were happy to put this one out for nothing. Unlike the other Specialist Games they wouldn't even get any money from model sales. I'm sure you can still find it somewhere on the internet if you look around.

    Blood Bowl is still available -- albeit a different edition -- in a box, although it's not quite as big as it once was. I reckon it's still one of GW's best games, and I'm glad they've not buried it.

    I had the second edition of Space Marine, and I was astounded that it came with three armies, although it was a shame that there was only one Titan.

    One that's not on your list, as it came out a couple of years later, is Warhammer Quest. I don't know anyone who didn't love the game, and I know that it's one of the most requested re-releases.

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    1. I've had a poke around, and Dark Future is still there, but they're just not advertising the link anywhere. You can download it here.

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  6. Like Dark Future, the original Mighty Empires is still available as a pdf on Games Workshop's webpage, under Gaming->Gaming and Collecting Articles->Campaigns.

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  7. I still have a fairly tidy copy of Advanced HeroQuest and remember playing solo dungeons with a friend. It's a shame that GW have telescoped their range of games so drastically over the last decade-or-so, shutting out or dropping support for these excellent games that add so much to their fictional universes. I did pick up the new Space Hulk edition and am very impressed by it. I'd love to see them do a dungeon crawl set.

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    1. I didn't own any of those marvellous things...at this time, it was really expensive for me- the price were 50% much than UK prices !!!! never grow tired to see it the local wargame store window !!!! - SIGH-

      but I owned back in the days the classic Space Crusade as a 1991 Christmas gift...what a magic moment when I opened the box and saw the Space Marines, the Orks and Genestealers and...Chaos space marines !!!!!
      I painted up all the Space marines in the following weeks with Best of Queen vol 2 in my back :) such marvellous memories...
      aaaaahhhh Innuendo !!!


      David LEONARD

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  8. I've got Might Empires and 2 copies of Space Marine and I did have Adeptus Titanicus, but I sold all the Titans. :(

    I seem to remember the polystyrene buildings having quite a lot of prominent injection points and mold lines and they were just grey compared to the colourful cardboard buildings of Space Marine. Even now I dont think I would have the skill to make the polystyrene buildings look good.

    I played Adeptus Titanicus a number of times straight out of the box and it seemed to be ok. You had thick cardboard cards that told you the weapon configuration, number of void shields and the points cost for each titan type. There was obviously one heavy type that was really really good! I would love to play a game of Space Marine with a couple of Titans per side. I think that would really give the best game experience. I have large UltraMarine and Imperial Guard armies for the original Space Marine game. I wonder if you have to change the basing to play the latest version?

    Another boxed game I remember playing was Battlefleet gothic. I would like to play that again sometime!

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    1. As far as I know, you don't have to change the bases. This is good, as I never liked those long bases.

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  9. I had Adeptus Titanicus and it was one of my all time favourite games!

    I loved the polystyrene building too and used to plasma battle damage them with liquid poly...

    I also had Space Hulk too which I never really manages to get round to painting anything other than a few of the genestealers which was a shame as they were quite good to paint.

    I dont own any of them now, I don't actually remember what happened to them to be honest.

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  10. Played a fair few of these many years ago. Titanicus was good when played with Space Marine but from what I recall the game suffered a fairly nasty flaw in that it was too easy for vehicles to ram a titans leg and knock it over. Also some titan weapons were really weak which limited your choices fairly dramatically (auto cannons come to mind here - OK for trying to knock down shields but nothing else). A big game of Titanicus/space marine looked absolutely cool on the gaming table though!

    Played ME to death in my final year of high school (91 - geez how long ago is that...). It was fun but could be terribly random - dragon rage, magic and year end events could produce devastating results. Hilarious if that happened to an opponent but not if it happened to you. I reckon ME would really come into it's won as a campaign game but I never had the minis to do that.

    Played ASC, AH and BB a bit around that time too. the two advanced games really require additional figures but anyone who played 40K or WFB would have enough additional figures lying around to do so. I suspect that is why GW dropped these games quickly as they didn't produce enough additional sales. BB 2 edit is an interesting one - figures were brilliant but I must admit the game could get bogged down badly. The 3rd edition is a rare example of GW actually improving a game.

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  11. Adding to the list are the following
    - Necromunda (gang fighting under the hive cities of the Imperium)
    - Gorkamorka (trash collecting as an ork warband on a deserted planet )

    I played some Mighty Empires in it's time and can remember the heated discussions when alliance broke apart :-) (aaah, the times past...) We used to play it as a stand alone, taking about an entire weekend for one game. (six players or so)

    One of my friends had the Necromunda box set plus some extra gangs and we played some games in it. The rules were easy to understand, coming from WH40K, but allowed for a fast game none the less.

    There was also a more recent fantasy version of Necromunda, of which the name escapes me. Its was played in a city where one needed to collect warp-stone tokens with a warband.

    I never played Gorkamorka, as it did not appeal to me very much.

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    1. That was Mordhiem City of the Damned, which first appeared as a series of articules in WD before being turned into a fully fledged boxed game.

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  12. Shocked that Warhammer Quest isn't on the list. Easily my favorite GW game of all time.
    WHQ and Blood Bowl have to be the best games GW have ever put out

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  13. I still have at least the rulebooks for most of these in my loft. I have the full copy of Mighty Empires, but in a different box and never owned Dark Future as a friend had it and I never really enjoyed it. For Blood Bowl I still have the first edition.

    Still got all of my Space Hulk first edition stuff, including the supplements although we never really played much of the of the Genestealer expansion, as it just felt like a an expansion too far.

    I remember playing all of these games far more often than the 'core games', especialy Space Hulk and Space Marine! Good times.

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  14. For me it was the Intro games they put out that I had "Mighty Warriors" with it's Advacnced Hero Quest figures and doors and it flimsy card floorplans and the "Ultra Marines" with it's tacky plastic scouts and Space Hulk floorplans.

    Sadly I never had the other two, "Dungeonbowl" and "Spacefleet", One day I'll get the full set, in the meantime I have the parts for Ultra Marines and am working on getting some scouts to play it again.

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  15. Me oh my, but you missed a bunch, as others have mentioned:

    Warhammer Quest
    Man O' War
    Battlefleet Gothic
    Necromunda
    Gorkamorka
    Dungeonbowl
    Mordheim

    There were also the collaborations with Milton Bradley:

    HeroQuest
    Space Crusade

    ...and the medium-box wargame trilogy:

    Hours Heresy
    Battle for Armageddon
    Doom of the Elder

    I remember the heady days when GW actually made GAMES.

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  16. Coming from someone who isn't even as old as most games on this list, I must say I've always loved the classics GW put out in ye olden days. Space Hulk, Battlefleet Gothic and Blood Bowl have all seen quite a bit of gaming in my young hands, too, and will definitely continue to do so. I'd love to play a game of Adeptus Titanicus at some point, too.

    Not sure if this is entirely relevant to Oldhammerists, but there seems to be a certain reneissance of games going on at GW at this point. Specialist games are coming back, new Blood Bowl will see release later this year, others will follow, Lost Patrol gets revisited and what not.

    Orlygg, have you tried the last December's great sleeper, Betrayal at Calth? Personally I love the fluff and feeling of Horus Heresy and would've bought the box anyway but my, is the game good or what. Mm-mhh, a delicious treat, even! The miniatures are gorgeous, the production values high and the actual game seriously funky. I'd almost throw it at the level of Space Hulk (with the caveat of not being directly comparable, but anyway) in terms of gameplay goodness. In a sense it's much more interactive, with alternating activations, but still keeps that laser-tight focus on the objectives of each player. If you haven't, I'd strongly recommend it as it is very much on par with the classics.

    Rumour has it that there is also going to be a sequel to it this year. Is Games Workshop actually making games nowadays? *gasp*

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  17. Hello to all. a friend has to sell several pieces , some still new . some names: space hulk, advance heroquest, blood royale, dark future, sea of blood, talisman.... are about 40 in all. Can someone help me estimate its value? I write from Italy . Thanks so much.

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  18. Owned a lot of these. Titanicus was a favorite and I have the Codex Titanicus, the expansion book for it that introduced additional forces like the Eldar. Wish I still had all the bits but almost 30 years and many moves and using the parts for other games has scattered the bits hither and yon.

    I never painted the buildings, by the way. They were horrid, though functional. And they were the source of one of the stupidest arguments I've ever had with my late High School friend: I wanted to assault one of those chunky-ass buildings, but my friend moved his units to the center of the building so I couldn't come into contact with them. The rules stated that you must do so to begin combat, and they also stated that you couldn't move into the building until you successfully assaulted enemy units within and destroyed or drove them out. So he claimed invulnerability in the center of that building. We had a lot of gaming related arguments, but that one nearly came to blows. I dearly miss that old rules-lawyering bastard.

    We played AH, but eventually tired of it when the game devolved into doorway beat downs of the 'step, attack, step out, next character, rinse, repeat' variety. It became, like many of these boxes, a core source of miniatures and tiles, in this case for playing WFRP.

    I seriously miss the old ME, and thought the bare bones re-release was a pale imitation. The tiles were nice, but trying to form 'rounder' shapes using those stiff polystyrene tiles was impossible, as the board always warped, unlike the old card tiles which you could assemble in any formation to represent everything from the center of a continent to an isthmus of peninsula. Plus the old rules were much better for campaigns. the newer ones were too simplified and didn't have the variety of non-battle events the old game did. I actually wrote a hybrid of the two and Warmaster for publishing in Warmaster magazine before it was cancelled.

    Another game missing from your list that I own is 'Spacefleet,' the proto-BattleFleet Gothic. The box is actually part of the game, requiring you to drop dice onto a grid in the top lid to play. I actually liked the Eldar ships in that game, with their massive solar sails, better than the ones for BG.

    I do, indeed remember a Great Unclean One in the stands eating Pop-Khorne. Still have my Companion and Star Players books, my Dungeonbowl set and the astrogranite and models from my old 2E set as well as all the 3E stuff. I've loved BB for decades, although the constantly changing rules, of late, have lessened my enthusiasm for it.

    I used the original Space Hulk Terminators as the core for my RT Space Marine Army and the Genestealers as the core of a cult army using the articles in WD. I also tried playing Confrontation, but it wasn't nearly as quick and fun as Necromunda later turned out to be.

    Man, GW got a lot of my hard earned cash when was younger...!

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  19. Owned a lot of these. Titanicus was a favorite and I have the Codex Titanicus, the expansion book for it that introduced additional forces like the Eldar. Wish I still had all the bits but almost 30 years and many moves and using the parts for other games has scattered the bits hither and yon.

    I never painted the buildings, by the way. They were horrid, though functional. And they were the source of one of the stupidest arguments I've ever had with my late High School friend: I wanted to assault one of those chunky-ass buildings, but my friend moved his units to the center of the building so I couldn't come into contact with them. The rules stated that you must do so to begin combat, and they also stated that you couldn't move into the building until you successfully assaulted enemy units within and destroyed or drove them out. So he claimed invulnerability in the center of that building. We had a lot of gaming related arguments, but that one nearly came to blows. I dearly miss that old rules-lawyering bastard.

    We played AH, but eventually tired of it when the game devolved into doorway beat downs of the 'step, attack, step out, next character, rinse, repeat' variety. It became, like many of these boxes, a core source of miniatures and tiles, in this case for playing WFRP.

    I seriously miss the old ME, and thought the bare bones re-release was a pale imitation. The tiles were nice, but trying to form 'rounder' shapes using those stiff polystyrene tiles was impossible, as the board always warped, unlike the old card tiles which you could assemble in any formation to represent everything from the center of a continent to an isthmus of peninsula. Plus the old rules were much better for campaigns. the newer ones were too simplified and didn't have the variety of non-battle events the old game did. I actually wrote a hybrid of the two and Warmaster for publishing in Warmaster magazine before it was cancelled.

    Another game missing from your list that I own is 'Spacefleet,' the proto-BattleFleet Gothic. The box is actually part of the game, requiring you to drop dice onto a grid in the top lid to play. I actually liked the Eldar ships in that game, with their massive solar sails, better than the ones for BG.

    I do, indeed remember a Great Unclean One in the stands eating Pop-Khorne. Still have my Companion and Star Players books, my Dungeonbowl set and the astrogranite and models from my old 2E set as well as all the 3E stuff. I've loved BB for decades, although the constantly changing rules, of late, have lessened my enthusiasm for it.

    I used the original Space Hulk Terminators as the core for my RT Space Marine Army and the Genestealers as the core of a cult army using the articles in WD. I also tried playing Confrontation, but it wasn't nearly as quick and fun as Necromunda later turned out to be.

    Man, GW got a lot of my hard earned cash when was younger...!

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