Background image is Les Dernières Cartouches (The Last Cartridges) by Alphonse de Neuville

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Back to the past

I was fortunate enough to find a solid, enjoyable group of historical game aficionados where I went to college. We played probably at least once a week, on average, frequently running semester-long campaigns, first at a local alum's house, later at the room we were able to swing in one of the student society buildings by the simple expedient of registering as an organized student special interest group.

One of my all-time favourites was the SPI boardgame Empires of the Middle Ages (EOMA). I was introduced to it, as I recall, by the aforementioned alum, one of the eternal corps of Ephs who can't quite bear to leave the Purple Valley and find work as graduate assistants, or researchers, or small-business entrepreneurs, or NGO start-up organizers. He lived in a tiny (but cozy) house off campus, and he and I and several others would meet there to play boardgames or roleplaying games (his long-running D&D campaign is still a thing of legend for those of us who played in it).

But equal in enjoyment were the many games of EOMA we played. Only several years later was I able to acquire a copy of my own (originally published in 1980 by the now-defunct SPI game company of New York, it became a cult collectors' item).

And, to my delight, it looks as if I have persuaded some of my local gaming friends to give it a try! I'm hoping that they enjoy it as much as I do, so that this becomes a regular part of our game stable, as it did for me and Jeff, and Bryan, and Dean, and Phil, and Scott, lo those many years ago. (Bryan may remember if I've got all the right names.)

I played through the "Charlemagne" starter solitaire scenario this evening, to be sure that I still remembered the rules (I do, but there are nuances I need to be sure to point out to new players tomorrow). I took notes, so I'll post up a turn by turn replay later. For now, I will just confess that I ended up with a sad "Mediocre" score, as Charles held everything together right until the end, then dropped the basket of eggs going down the stairs (as it were...)


  1. That's most of the Empires regulars, although you left out Dave Kleit (who is colorblind, which makes Empires especially... challenging), and I think I can resurrect the lineup: you (England), me (France), Dave (Germany), Dean (Poland, aka the Greater East European Co-Prosperity Sphere after he conquered all of Russia), Phil (Spain?), and Jeff (Byzantium). If I recall correctly Jeff pretty much won going away.

    I seem to recall Paul Mahoney joining us for the second campaign game, replacing Dean who had graduated, but I can't remember that lineup at all except that I think I played Russia.

    I remember the first meeting of the Triskelion Society, where Jeff practically jumped out of his chair when he mentioned Empires and I said not only did I own it, but I had it with me. :-)

    I ran across one of my status maps a few months ago when I was going through old gaming notebooks; it really brought back some memories. I think I've still got my copy of the game in our storage room ... somewhere.

    1. How ridiculous that I would have left out David, as I not only mentioned him to a colleague the other day (we were discussing graphic displays on colours and shades) but as a result got on Facebook and connected up with him.

      I couldn't remember if Scott (I think his name was--bearded chap who used to stand on one leg from time to time) or another chap (possibly another David--dark hair, glasses, went off to work at the Fed after Williams) played boardgames with us or just D&D.

      If I get a chance a little later this evening I'll post an account of the first 2/3 of our play of the Crusades, but the highlight (low light?) was the chap playing France (which was in difficulties to begin with) drawing Leader Dies Heirless and losing a third of his areas. Then *another* and losing at least one more. Then getting an Epidemic (only 1100s, so not the Plague). Then getting the leading edge of a west-Europe year of famine. He was down to Ile De France (+1), Champagne (-3), and Aragon (-3 and in unrest as it was isolated from his court). He's recovered Normandy and Anjou since then, but Aragon is still cut off, and things look grim...

    2. Scott was just in the D&D game. He and I took over Jeff's campaign when he moved away and our characters had just been killed without possibility of resurrection. (Credit him with the Sousaphone of Blasting).

      That's the campaign that spun completely out of control into Monty Haul land, and is the reason why I became very stingy with magic items in every subsequent D&D campaign I ran.