Christmas, 1988. I was nine years old. Like typical kids, my brother and I watched cartoons after school, and our sister, a few years older, had a steady stream of television and the like to keep her mind turning into mush. We were pretty much your typical suburban white privilege kids.

And we wanted damn near every stupid thing we saw on TV.

So there’s this new game. Well, new to us, because we hadn’t seen it yet. But this new game, with these awesome commercials. This game that looks better than any board game we’d ever seen, and has a really cool theme with, like I said, awesome commercials.

Fireball freaking Island.

Go watch the commercial. Go on, I’ll wait.

Fireball Island Commercial!

Pretty cool, huh? Damn straight. So cool that you can find all sorts of stuff online about it. I’m hardly the first to write about it. Two of the more well-known reviews of it are the no-longer-written but still awesome X-Entertainment (Matt now writes Dinosaur Dracula and has more recently spoken about the game on his Purple Stuff Podcast), and James Rolf’s Board James persona. Both are worth checking out (and are actually linked on the Wikipedia page for the game).

As you can see from the YouTube video, there are several websites dedicated to the game. More video reviews of it. So much on the web that gushes love for this game!

But I’m not here to say the same things they said, or any other site. I wanted to talk about the game because it reminds me of some fun memories with my siblings.

Recently, my only nephew turned 11. I love when there’s a birthday or some sort of holiday, because it gets my brother, sister and me together. We all have a lot of fun, usually ending up talking about our childhood and laughing the whole time. With our nephew and niece, we can often relate stories to them of “when we were your age” and watch them cringe. It’s a good time.

So I was thinking of Fireball Island, and how the older we got, one of the few times the three of us would sit down together and be civil with each other was with a game. That Christmas, ’88, we received several other big ticket items. Our dad must have gotten a pretty big bonus check, unless our parents just managed to put aside a good Christmas fund.

Like I said, we were your typical white privilege kids, so Christmas was always a pretty good blowout for gifts for us (not so much birthdays, though). But in ’88, we had some big things. So imagine us all having our own things to do. And yet we still sat down to play a game with each other.

The rules were pretty easy. A lot of online reviews will talk about the complex rules, but I think that’s because the kids today are soft. They need someone to hold their hand every step of the way. Not us, no way. We got tossed in and left to deal with it on our own.

You moved your little explorer guy, and drew cards. If you had the right card, you could launch a fireball. The marbles would go down their respective paths, and knock over other play pieces, and even bridges. There were transport caves, and a mystical jewel that you had to claim. If you didn’t watch that commercial, go do it so you can see what I’m talking about!

I tried to play the game with friends, but they never wanted to. I had boring friends.

Maybe it was because we didn’t feel the need to fight each other with fireballs. Maybe that was why me, Amy and Andy loved it. We could compete in a friendly game, while knocking each other down with fireballs. Who wouldn’t love that?

For some reason, with the resurgence of games, especially board games, no one has brought this back. Go to any Barnes & Noble, or a friendly local game store, and check out all the amazing games they have. It goes far beyond Monopoly or Life, much more than anything Milton Bradley ever put out. Some games cost $50 or more, with hundreds more pieces. So why not bring back Fireball Island?

I keep thinking about this game. I keep wanting to write a story about it. Perhaps I shall. But more than that, perhaps I’ll sell a kidney and find a complete version of Fireball Island on ebay.

Maybe someone will realize how great that game truly was, and understand that a new generation needs to experience it. Bring it back, Milton Bradley. Bring it back.

To be like Bilbo Baggins…

February 7, 2016

If you’ve never heard The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, go to YouTube and watch it now. Do it! Possibly one of the best things ever to come from the late, great Leonard Nimoy.

Back? Good.

Sometimes, we have to make those confessions that make people wonder about us. For me, it’s regarding a small hobbit by the name of Bilbo…

I’ve only read The Hobbit twice.

I just finished reading it for the second time. The first was back in 2001, shortly before the first Lord of the Rings movie came out.

What kind of writer am I? What kind of fantasy fan am I? Shouldn’t I have read The Hobbit in 7th grade, just like the rest of western civilization? I know, I know, turn in my nerd badge and go watch a football game, right?

Anyway, outrage aside, I did just finish reading it again. A few weeks ago, I was at the library looking through movies because I missed a bunch of movies last year (and the year before that, and the year before that…). My taxes pay for the library to get new books/movies/cd’s, so hey, why not? Anyway, I saw all three Hobbit movies and realized that not only have I not watched them, I should probably read the book again. It’s a classic, and pretty much sparked an entire genre.

Man, it’s a good book.

I mean seriously, it’s got everything. It isn’t just a fantasy epic, it’s an adventure story, a thriller, suspenseful, and even a little scary at times. Just look at all of the different conflicts in the book and you’ve got a pretty diverse array of events and characters. Pretty much how fantasy should be done, or at least the perfect stepping-off point.

Now I realize, the book isn’t without its flaws. Things just conveniently happen, for instance. The narrator, very friendly with the reader, waves off many things as “a story for another time.” While I get the expediency that Tolkein was going for, by today’s standards, that would get you a flat out rejection. Also, too much head-hopping, too many perspective shifts, and not enough detail shown. Seriously, when Bilbo and the dwarves are in Smaug’s mountain, can’t we get an in-depth description of what the mountains of treasure look like? “Some object” could easily become “a small chest, crusted with purple gems” or “a trophy dedicated to some long-forgotten lord.”

I know that critiquing the book now is beyond pointless, but as a writer, I notice these things. Something else, something much more important, however, is even more noticeable.

How awesome this book truly is.

I feel reinspired. I’m two-thirds of the way through writing a new book, and I actually want to finish it. Well, I always wanted to finish it, just when the time was right.

Why delay? The time is now! Go forth, and make fantasy!

 

7th Sea is back!

February 4, 2016

A few months ago, I saw some very good news.

7th Sea is returning!!!!

One of the biggest inspirations to my writing, 7th Sea was a role-playing game by Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG. It also had a collectible card game that I was pretty big into.

Imagine an alternate 17th century Europe, with magic. Now imagine a lot of pirate stuff, intrigue, and well-developed characters. There’s so much more to it, but that’s the gist.

The game died a slow, quiet death. I was bummed, but hadn’t played rpg’s in a long time. Still, I read those books all the time for inspiration and ideas, even to this day. So imagine my elation when I saw that the game is coming back!

John Wick, the original writer/developer of the game (not the Keanu Reeves character), has bought the rights to it from AEG. It should be premiering at GenCon this year, so I might actually go for the first time in 11 years.

Like many things, it’ll go through Kickstarter. February 9th is the day, so please, go pledge. Not only are you helping many talented writers and artists bring their work to life, you are helping so many gamers and interested minds in experiencing one of the greatest games ever.

Who knows, maybe they’ve got room for some new writers…

Whatever happens, I’m happy. More reading material, and a new game for a new generation. What a great time to be alive.