Episode 59: There and Back Again

59: There and Back Again

Release Date: August 4, 2008

Running Time: 147 min.

Listen Now:

Download: Enhanced Version - MP3 Version

Subscribe via iTunes: Enhanced - MP3

See sidebar for other subscription options


Mordor or bust! Each year we allow our listeners to program every segment of one show. This year's episode features an in-depth look at War of the Ring, a strategy board game pitting two players in a struggle to rewrite the history of Middle Earth.

News & Notes: Elementalis Expansions, Games by Spielers for Spielers
The List: War of the Ring
Name That Game: Win Knowbody Knows, courtesy of Uncle Rez Games
Backshelf Spotlight:
Ploy, Chinatown
Truckloads of Goober: Broadsides & Boarding Parties
Game Sommelier: Seven games to match the seven deadly sins
Mail Bag:
Subbuteo on the DS, School Library Journal Article, Galactic Emperor

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.


Game News & Notes

ElementaliS Expansion Link 

The latest free expansion to the strategy dice game ElementaliS, Guardians and Luminaries is now available. You can download the expansion for FREE by following the link posted above. This expansion will be included in the upcoming ElementaliS Expansion Pack, which will include printed versions of all 3 expansions plus an updated rulebook.

Games by Spielers for Spielers Link

We are starting a new section to our Forums. As the name implies, Games by Spielers for Spielers will contain print-and-play games created by other Spiel listeners. A hearty round of thank yous go out to our first two designers: Ken Maher (Roaches) and Tim Brown (Hex Dice). The generous gentlemen are offering up their games to all players for free. Each game will have its own forum, so feel free to post comments or session reports there. I am certain Ken and Tim will welcome the feedback.

Spiel-a-thon: August 15 Link

Come play the latest greatest games from Rio Grande Games and help us launch The Spiel Foundation August 15 at GenCon. Full details for the event are listed here.

The Prize pool for the Spiel-a-thon is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to generous donations from: North Star Games, Bandai, Z-Man Games, Paizo Publishing, Out of the Box, Fundex, Gateplay.com, and Rio Grande Games.

The List

War of the Ring  BGG | Official Site

Long in the making, this massive game based on J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings allows players to experience the dramatic events and epic conflict that occurred before the end of the Third Age of Middle Earth.The War of the Ring allows players to not only control the military might of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and the forces of Sauron, but also Tolkien’s legendary characters, making the fateful decisions of the Fellowship of the Ring or guiding the dreadful servants of Sauron as they hunt for the ringbearer.

Backshelf Spotlight

Mystery Connection Contest
Can you create a connection between these two games?
Post your connections in our forums and you could win a set of custom Spiel dice! Remember the more left of center your connection, the more likely you'll get our attention.

spiel dice

Ploy BGG

Ploy is the stimulating space-age strategy game. The object--to eliminate the opponent's Commander or all of his forces. Since pieces only move along paths in line with the indicators radiating from their centers, the strategy lies in knowing when to move and when to rotate a piece to change direction. For 2 or 4 players. Bookshelf case contains four sets of spacial playing pieces, futuristic playing board and instructions.

Chinatown BGG | Official Site

New York in the 1960’s. A new wave of Chinese immigrants is moving into Chinatown. The adoption of the new immigration act has launched the district in a demographic boom! It now reaches Canal Street to the north and Bowery Street to the east. The immigrants, hard-working men and women, are arriving by the thousands to buy buildings, establish businesses and fulfill the American Dream! In this game, you are one of them. With all your savings in hand, the Big Apple is up for grabs! Will you know how to use your talents and acquire the most extraordinary fortune in America?

Truckloads of Goober

Broadsides & Boarding Parties  BGG | Official Site 

Avast, Matey, prepare to be boarded. Two GIANT pirate ships maneuver for the best position to take the other to a watery grave.


Game Sommelier

The Challenge: Seven games that correspond to the seven deadly sins. Mark "The Nemesis" Wilder has added and extra challenge. For every thumbs up I receive from Mark, he's going to donate $5 to the Spiel Foundation, our new charity fund to donate games to children's hospitals and senior centers. Mark is also going to come up with his own list of 7 games. For every game we match, he will also donate $5. That's $70, potentially!

Stephen's List

Mark's Vote/Pick

Greed - Ca$h-n-Gun$
Thumbs Up / Diamant
Lust - Mr. Jack
Thumbs Up / Antler Island
Gluttony - Hey! That's My Fish
Thumbs Up / Hungry Hungry Hippos
Wrath - Fury of Dracula
Thumbs Up / Diplomacy
Envy - Hoity Toity
Thumbs Up / High Society
Sloth - LCR
Thumbs Up / Power Grid
Pride - Shadows Over Camelot
Thumbs Up / Thebes

Next Challenge: Five games a person with two broken arms (after a freak trumpeting accident) could play without needing to touch his/her pieces.

Mail Bag

Thanks to donors Michael “Goa Head Make My Day” Potts, Christopher “Portal of Power” Onstad, Timothy "Lidless Eye" Stellmach, Ben “The Brick” Tichy, Brad “Cosmic Encounter” Brooks

Michael Jordal wrotes in to tell us about a Subbuteo game for the Nintendo DS! Very nifty!

For those interested, Stephen is on X-box Live (gamertag: fighting squid)

James Stubbs has a great article about introducing new players to the wider world of games posted at the School Library Journal. He runs through board game analogs to popular video game genres from fighting games and sports games to strategy games and rpgs.

Thanks to Samuel Williams who sent Dave an email as a witness to back up my claims that I did indeed play Caylus at Origins. 

David Siskin from Playa del Rey CA sent in a great session report from a new science fiction game, Galactic Emperor by Crosscut Games. Cool mix of politics, economics, exploration and space battles. And extra cool goober!  David says it feels leaner meaner version of Twilight Imperium only about 2 hours to play. The fine folks at Crosscut have sent us a copy so we're looking forward to cracking that puppy open for sure!


I'm sure there are some goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!



I have added you as an XBox friend! I'm JoeyMark if any of your other listeners want to add me.

Here's a quick link to your profile to make it easier to add you online: http://live.xbox.com/en-US/profile/profile.aspx?GamerTag=fighting%20squid

Yay XBox! I've had mine for 14 months now and I've yet to play another BGGer online. Time to remedy that!


Mark "The Nemesis" Wilder

Evanston IL

Cool, thanks for adding me, Mark. I look forward to some games online with you

I get together on Xbox Live with a close friend of mine in the Bay area (Allen) every Monday late at night and we play. With most video games, we really love co-op mode. Much more fun to be working together against a common enemy, especially since we are both about the same level of suckitude.

I just learned that the new version of Madden has reintroduced online co-op play, so we are thinking pretty seriously of upgrading before the season starts.

The extra cool part is Allen really loves board games but doesn't really have anyone to play with out in CA, so we could get some games of Ticket to Ride and whatever else is available once we spend the bucks for the new machines. It would be fun to intoduce Allen to some Spielers through Xbox.


You should totally upgrade to the XBox360. It is strongly rumored that the XBox360 Arcade (the cheapest model with no harddrive) is expected to go down from $280 to $200 around Labor Day. I don't know if the other models are expected to follow. The core unit is getting an upgrade from 20GB to 60GB hard drive, so you might be able to find a 20GB version at a discount pretty soon (if you're paying full price, make sure you're paying it for a 60GB version which is released at the same price as a 20GB version).

Anyway, my point is that it's time to upgrade and get a 360. If you don't have an HDTV, the 360 might force you to start looking seriously at them (that's what finally made me go out and get mine).

Edit: Upon further review, it looks like the price cut will be for all models. The 60GB core model will be $300, down from $350 or so.


Are you sure about the 60GB model dropping in price? I thought I had read somewhere that the 20GB price drop was to flush out the old inventory and the 60GB model was going to stay at the higher price. I hope you're right! Money has been pretty tight here since the tree catastrophe, but if it drops to $300, I think I'll have to take the plunge.

Well, that's what I found online (link below). Incidentally, unless you're planning on downloading a lot of movies or video, 20GB is probably more than enough. I have probably 40 XBLA games and a lot of demos and a few videos, and I still have 5GB+ left. That doesn't mean that I don't want a 120GB drive, though, just on principle.

The price cut on the Arcade has been sort-of confirmed (someone who works for a big box electronics store found evidence of the impending price cut for Sept. 7 on the store's system). If the others don't fall, too, then it would end up cheaper to get the Arcade and the sold-seperately hard drive instead of the Core.

Link1 ; Link2



Other than the larger hard drive, the elite doesn't really have that much on the pro model, correct? We invested in an HD display last year (a glorious Pioneer Elite plasma) so I definitely would like to have an HDMI ou put from the 360. From what I can tell, the pro model has HDMI out now, too.

Am I missing something or is the elite way over priced and the new pro model is the way to go?


Both have HDMI (since July of last year, anyway), but the Elite comes with the HDMI cable and with the Pro it's a seperate purchase. The Elite also has a 120GB HDD (as opposed to 60GB/20GB) and is black instead of white.

Also, it looks like the low-end "arcade" model isn't compatible with your old XBOX games, so you'll want to avoid that one, probably.

Unless you're concerned about black or can't find an HDMI cable for less than the difference in price, then go with the Pro model.  If you think you'll be downloading a lot of video, the bigger HDD will be useful, but that can be purchased seperately later.

Hey, just an update: Someone got ahold of an advance copy of a Radio Shack flyer that seems to confirm that the Elite is dropping to $399 and the Arcade to $199. One would assume that the Premium would follow suit and go for $299. (source: http://www.joystiq.com/photos/radio-shack-xbox-360-elite-price-drop/9896...)

And, if you haven't already heard, Tide of Iron and Wings of War are coming out on XBox live arcade, too! (source: http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php/boardgamenews/comments/tide_of_ir...)


My point is this: Get a 360. :)

My buddy in CA, Allen, and I have all but decided to take the plunge and get the 360 after the price drop in September. I just realized the other day I have a few Amazon gift certificates that I can put toward the 360 to drop the cost even more. Score!

That is great news about Tide of Iron and Wings of War! Hasn't Fantasy Flight traditionally scorned online versions of their games? I wonder if this is a prelude to even more FFG games online?

There can't be enough games online as far as I'm concerned. It could potentially become a problem if people stop buying the box version in favor of the online, but I honestly don't think that's likely. Indeed, I think it's more likely to work the other way, with new people introduced to games that they might not know otherwise, they may just go out an buy an "analog" copy.

On XBLA, we're up to Catan, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride (plus Europe with 1910 coming soon), Wits & Wagers, and Lost Cities. Oh, and Uno. And I've bought 'em all (except Uno). The sad admission is this: I've yet to play any of 'em online. I travel too much. But soon, I hope, I'll get the chance.

In other online gaming news, Game Table Online picked up the WoTC/Avalon Hill games that they made for Gleemax, including Acquire, RoboRally, Guillotine, and Vegas Showdown. Plus, they recently announced 1960! This is exciting because when I DO travel, I have a PC but not an XBox. GTO makes great implementations that, again, I haven't tried enough. Unfortunately, they don't really have AI's For the most part, so you need others to play against (I prefer playing other humans, but coordnating times for real-time games is difficult).  It looks like they're going to adapt some of them to Facebook, so that may make for good non-real-time gaming. I can see myself now having fifty games in progress at once.

In summary, it's a good time to be a gamer, and it's always better to have more opportunities to play. I've been told many times that you don't have to play to win, you just have to play.

 It's confirmed that the XBox price cuts will come Friday as expected. $299 for the 60GB Pro. You may still find a 20GB out there even cheaper. 

Source: http://majornelson.com/default.aspx

Friday? I thought it was Monday. Cool!

Looks like I'll have a 360 on order from Amazon very very soon!

With football season starting my friend Alllen and I are itching to start playing the Colts season week by week.

Of course I am eager to try out the board game offerings as well. I hope I can twist some Spieler's arms into playing with Allen and I once I get him up to speed on the rules of a few euro games.

 pending schedule, of course, i'm totally in. It's hard to choose what XBLA board game to start with. Ticket to Ride is the easiest to teach, but the interface isn't the best. Carcassonne also has interface problems, and sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on. Catan has a good interface, but might be the hardest to teach. 

Lost Cities has potential, though you wouldn't need me for that.


Well, there is a game called "Greed", but I suppose that would have been too easy. "King's Breakfast" for gluttony, perhaps but er... you hear "lust" and you think "Jack The Ripper"? Seek help, son before your significant other starts hiding the cutlery! Seriously, I think you're talking more about "wrath" in the case of "Springheel Jack" regardless of his victims' profession. This may just be my own squeamishness actually, I don't know why the cartoonish artwork of "Mr. Jack" seems so very inappropriate to me, yet I treasure my copy of the 70's kids' game "The Sinking of the Titanic."

Erm, allow me to suggest therapy in the form of (again, I know) Friedmann Friese's "Fiese Freunde Fette Feten". the game that amusingly provoked the prudish ire of much of the game community because, to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, it was inappropriate, it was irresponsible, but "mostly because they never got invited to those sorts of parties."

Actually that would fill in nicely for just about any of the seven; I'd love to hear it on the list...

I still don't know why Mr. Jack was literally the first thing that leapt to mind when doing the challenge. It freaked me out, too! Still, I'd say it does fit, albeit in a sick and twisted way. Having played Mr. Jack, I don't  find the cartoony artwork offputting at all. I know there are some people with issues with games that take on strange or violent themes. For me it totally depends on the game. Its possible for me to tell when a game is crossing the line and celebrating something that should be reviled. Almost all games involve conflict (with each other, with the game itself),  so it makes sense that we look at examples both benign and dark for subjects.

I wish I had thought to use Funny Friends (the Rio Grande tamed down English version) for all seven sins. Excellent suggestion! You must be psychic since I am currently reading the rules to the game and looking forward to giving it a try.

Games should be as free to handle any subject as any other adult art form and a deduction game about the most infamous unknown killer in history is so obvious I'm surprised it took this long. Having walked around Whitechapel myself, though (where the most deadly thing these days is the vindaloo served in the back-to-back curry houses) the art just seems strangely "cute" when compared for example to the work Rick Geary did on the same subject for the Mystery Rummy series, which had more of a creepy, morbid quality. It's like Jeffrey Dahmer by way of Pixar; it certainly wouldn't keep me from playing and enjoying the game and it doesn't exactly "offend" me, it's just... odd...

War Of The Ring sounds phenomenal, by the way; you almost make me want to buy a game that I know full well would have a snowball's chance of getting played in my crowd...

Dahmer by way of Pixar is an hilarious analogy! And I do see your point about Mr. Jack when you put it that way.

Is it possible for a game to be dark and charming at the same time? Consider the card game Gloom which borrows heavily from the artwork of Gorey and yet it's totally endearing to me (I need help, i know). Maybe the disconnect is the reality of Jack the Ripper as opposed to the fictional dark and brooding setting of something like Gloom.

After playing War of the Ring with Dave, I was very tempted to buy my own copy. Like you, most of my game playing friends either tend to enjoy shorter games and the one's that do like longer games I don't play with that often. I realized that Dave is the person I would most often play with, so I decided to hold off... for now... the ring has a way of getting its way, though, doesn't it?


Just wanted you to know that, despite the merciless ribbing I received at the beginning of this episode, I am quite proud of my dented, gold-ish, turtle-adorned hubcap from the Formula De tourney!  It is proudly displayed in my cubicle at work.  Frankly, I think it was a much more exciting prize than the "17th Place" certificate that the next-highest competitor received.   :-)  Anyway, I had a great time, and thanks very much for having me.  I will return the hubcap next year and hopefully will not reclaim it!!!

Great episode, btw.  I used to own War of the Ring, but I sold it because I never could find another player who was willing to commit to the lengthy play time.   But, hearing your review has made me want to add it to my collection again (drat!).  It is indeed a fantastic game. 



I think we need to see pixel-proof of your trophy being proudly displayed!

I have had the pleasure of owning the last place trophy at least twice (if memory serves) but never the jeweled steering wheel.

As for War of the Ring, time is definitely a factor in whether or not its a game that will belong in anyone's collection.  Of the big box fantasy flight games, it is actually the one I am most tempted to have my own copy (Dave owns the copy we played). I don't think I would play that often, but it would be a very rewarding experience whenever I did manage to get it to the table.


Sadly, due my place of employment being the research area of a major pharmaceutical company, no cameras are allowed anywhere in my building.  So, you'll just have to take my word for it..  I promise I haven't angrily chucked it into the White River, where it fell to a watery demise and then slowly started to disintegrate due to the high levels of acid ebola death in the river.  Seriously.  Trust me.   :-P  ;-)


Great to hear the mighty War of the Ring crossed off the list.

Not sure about the 7 hour playing time mentioned. We normally knock it off in about 3-4 hours depending on the aggressiveness of the Shadow player involved. It's certainly one where the playing time reduces as the paricipants get familiar with the mechanics.

What I love about this game (and I think you alluded to it) is that every play carves out a memorable story line which you talk about again and again. Sounds like your play did exactly the same thing.

A few pedantic comments on your explanations:

  • The Elven people do not start "At War". They are activated but still need to drop down two political boxes to get into the at war state.
  • "The Will of the West" is indeed a wild action. It's also a specific action, in itself, for a couple of cards - for example turning Gandalf the Grey into Gandalf the White.
  • The "Character" action die role is needed in order to move the Fellowship. You mentioned all its other uses but not this key one ! 

Finally. it is worth noting that the type of symbols on the dice are unbalanced in favour of the Dark Side (another reason why the cause of the Free People is so desperate). The Blue dice only show one face with the 'army' icon and this is shared with the 'muster' icon. Moving the blue armies is that much more difficult than those on the darker side. 

Great, great game. The more you play, the more you appreciate some of the subtleties that have been interwoven into the gameplay.

Yes, the narrative that is built into War of the RIng gives the game a huge head start. If you're already interested in the books, it is fun to have yet another way to live in that fictional universe for a few hours.

Thanks for the small corrections. We were very worried we would screw up something major, but I think we avoided any massive goofs!

Since we were playing with all the expansions and it was our first attempt, I don't think we could have played much faster than the 7 hours. You're right that it would take less time in subsequent plays, but figuring in strategy time, it still feels like it would be a 4-6 hour game on average unless the Shadow player goes for broke immediately.


I've had War of the Ring sitting in my closet since it came out.

You guys finally gave me the kick in the rear I needed to setup a "game date" to play this bad boy.

For that, I'll forgive you for mispronouncing my last name AND game :)


Speil On!

Do'h! Did I really butcher both your name and your game? Sorry! Remind me again, please?

Let us know how your first game of WotR goes, for sure. We certainly had a blast with it.


Another great episode guys! Not a moment too soon, either, because I was about to go into Spiel withdrawal. I especially wanted to mention that I thought the choice of Adel Verpflichtet for Envy was inspired.

Thanks, teabo! It's good to be back. With GenCon coming up next, we won't feel like we are really back to our normal schedule until September.

I know my choice for pride was pretty lame, but I thought envy was on the money. I also thought Mark's choice of Hungry Hungry Hippos and Antler Island were much much better than mine.

Somebody needs to make sure we get pics of the Spiel-a-thon. I especially want to see the huge dice tower and dice.

Excellent Middle Earth sized episode! I have War of the Ring, but have only managed to get in the quick start game. I knew it was nothing compared to the full thing, but I hoped it would get us more excited to play the full rules (it didn't). This episode has me wanting to get it back to the table. I loved how Stephen and Dave 'took sides' a little bit in the rules discussion.

I couldn't figure out how to include mayonnaise or salsa into this post.

Last year we were so swamped, it didn't even occur to me until the event was almost over to snap a couple pictures. This year at least we have a plan!

We have four designated helpers: one to give out/sell raffle tickets, one to direct traffic, one to do the prize drawings and sign-up sheets for games vs me and Dave, and one roaming photographer. Of course, anyone who comes to the Spiel-a-thon would be welcome to snap some pics and send them to us. 

I would gladly enlist the help of any Spielers who want to lend a hand during the event, too. At this point help might come in the form of helping with the prize drawings or raffle tickets or help setting up decorations and tables for the event a few hours earlier in the day. Send me an email or leave a comment here if you have any interest in pitching in.

In related news, the giant dice tower construction is complete! I need some velcro straps to keep the sides from eventually pushing apart after several rolls, but other than that it works! Now I just have to paint the sucker...

For this episode's Seven Deadly Sins Game Sommelier, my choice for sloth is On the Underground. I think "the passenger" is one of the laziest game characters ever. He doesn't want to walk, and he will ride all over the map just so he doesn't have to switch trains as often!

I've not played the game, but from what I've heard that's an excellent choice.


-The Nemesis

Ha! Yes, that's so incredibly true!

I've just been listening to this episode and wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed the extended discussion of War of the Ring. I listened to some parts twice and I've added the game to my Wishlist as a result of this. I'll definitely be picking it up very soon, although with a newly discovered love of Descent, and Arkham Horror still to try, my gaming group may not get to it immediately.

Thanks a bunch, Tufty!

It was a big challenge to condense the 7-8 hour experience into something that would make sense and (hopefully) be entertaining. Whether you get to it now or later, I think you're in for a treat with War of the Ring.

Well after a long busy spell I'm finally getting to catch up on spiel episodes. 
I liked the 7 sins game sommelier challenge and most of the choices, BUT... how could you not even mention Bacchus' Banquet for the gluttony choice?  It's even subtitled "The Glory and Gluttony of Rome".  Apparently all you do in the game is eat and drink extravagantly... I'd say this beats out hungry hippos! ;-)


Perfect choice, for sure, Dmitri!

I was only vaguely aware of Bacchus' Banquet until I saw it at GenCon. Not only does it fit the challenge perfectly, but it looks like it would be a really fun game, too!