The big thing that happened this week is I had an afternoon alone with Little G and we played some classic Games Workshop games.
I’ve owned a copy of Oi! Dat’s My Leg! for years, bought back when it first came out. Earlier this year, I managed to snag copies of Squelch! and Hungry Troll and the Gobbos from a buy and sell group on Google+. This past weekend Little G and I played all three. We had a Games Workshop Troll Game Marathon!
There are many gamers out there that have no idea that Games Workshop, at one time, back in 1989, produced a series of kids games. If there were, then maybe there wouldn’t have been so much uproar about them writing kids books.
Back in 1989, Games Workshop announced four “Troll Games.” These were announced in White Dwarf 144 (click the image on the right to view it full size). These were games for kids that were full of the gross, dark, humor that was prevalent in most of their products of the time. There were four of them released and they retailed for about $13.
I remember the joke being that Games Workshop made these so that you had something to keep your kids busy while you played Warhammer. I can’t remember if that was something actually stated in the magazine or just something we implied from it.
For years I had only heard about these games. They existed in ads in White Dwarf magazines and that’s it. Then one day in the 90s sometime I found a copy of Oi! Dat’s My Leg! at a local con. Being a big Games Workshop fanboy I had to pick it up. It was many years later before I managed to get copies of two more of the games. Squelch! and Hungry Troll and the Gobbos.
I’m still looking for a copy of Trolls in the Pantry, so if anyone has a copy they are willing to part with let me know!
I think you would basically call this early Filk music as the GW team got together and acted like Trolls and Gobbos (goblins) and sang folky, kids songs. Of course, each has a touch of adult humor, so that even adults find them rather hilarious.
My wife remembers that she thought we were going to die the day we bought Oi! Dat’s My Leg. After the con, we were driving home in our friend Rob’s car and he put the tape on. None of us could stop laughing, even Rob who was driving. If I remember correctly, we had to pull over. I also remember that we used to go “cruising” around town with that tape blaring. Everyone else had Metallica and Chili Peppers playing and here we were with Trolls and Gobbos. Yeah, we were geeks.
I was very pleased that my new copy of Squelch! came with its tape and that it still works. Sadly the tape from Hungry Troll and the Gobbos was missing. So again, if anyone knows where I can find one let me know.
Click here if you want a taste of this insanity.
The first game of the bunch Little G and I played was Squelch!
Squelch is a tile laying game. You start with a tile for the entrance of your squiggly cave (back then “Squigs” in Warhammer weren’t all red and mostly teeth, there were lots of different types). Each turn you draw a new tile and then add it to your cave complex.
Most of the tiles are Squiggly Beasts and when played you have to match the colours on the side of them to the last card played. They also must be played right side up. The next type of tile is a Gobbo (aka Goblin). Gobbos protect Squiggly Beasts from Trolls. Trolls are the third type of tile. When you draw a Troll you play it in one of your opponent’s caves. Then the troll squishes all of the Squiggly beasts it finds making them go Squelch! (you flip the tile over), going back down the line until it gets to a Gobbo.
There’s one more type of tile: The Terrible Troll. When that comes up players have to try to grab a Heroic Gobbo tile. There are always one less of these than the number of players, so it’s mad dash like in a game of Spoons. If a cave is undefended by a Heroic Gobbo everything in the cave gets Squelched! Even the other Trolls and Gobbos.
The game ends when the deck of tiles runs out and then the player with the most un-squelched Squiggly Beasts wins.
This is not a good game. If you are going to play this game the first thing you should do is toss out the Terrible Troll. It’s a horrible mechanic that basically means that the player that gets hit by this Troll loses the game, no matter how well they were doing up to that point. Because you go through the entire deck of tiles every game, this is going to happen every game. Due to this you could just toss as many Heroic Goblins down on the table as the number of players minus one and ring a bell. Whoever doesn’t have one loses. Now the other players can play the actual game. I joke, but seriously, just leave the Terrible Troll in the Box.
Even without the Terrible Troll there really isn’t much of a game here. 80% off the time when you draw a tile there’s only one place to place it. 19% of the time there are options as to where to place a tile but it doesn’t actually matter to the game at all. The last 1% is that rare case where you get a tile and actually have a game affecting choice. Added to this, there’s a chance of missing a turn. A horrible mechanic that should have died before this game was new. Sometimes you will draw a tile and it just won’t fit. In that case, you put the tile on the bottom of the deck and miss your turn.
Sadly Squelch is just pure random luck. It’s almost as bad as Candyland with the outcome being determined as soon as you shuffle the tiles. But, it can be fixed!
Give each player a hand of tiles, like in Tsuro. Now there are decisions to be made. Do you play your Gobbo now to make sure you protect the Squiggly Beasts you have or do you push your luck hoping your opponent doesn’t have a Troll? If you are the one holding a Troll, do you use it right away or wait until your opponent has a nice long line of Squiggly Beasts? Don’t wait too long or they will get a Gobbo down and your Troll may be useless.
With those two small rule tweaks, you can make a rather fun game out of Squelch!
One final note: this game requires no reading so I think it would be great with even younger kids. I would think you could probably start this one as early as age 3 or 4.
Up next was Hungry Troll and the Gobbos.
Hungry Troll and the Gobbos is a card game that is a version of the classic game War.
Each turn, players draw one card and determine which card is better than the other, then the winner keeps both cards. If there is a tie both players draw another card and compare the same values. This repeats until one card in the pair wins. Then the winning player collects all of the cards played thus far. After getting through the deck the player with the most cards wins.
What’s neat here is what values you are comparing. Cards represent Gobbos, Trolls and some special characters (a very Games Workshop looking Chaos Knight, a Dragon, a Wizard and a Squiggly Beast), and each is rated on four stats: Hungry, Tough, Stupid and Naughty. Ratings in reach range from Not to Extremely. So Not Very Hungry, or Very Stupid, or Extremely Naughty.
The player whose turn it is (starting with the owner of the game) picks one of these stats and that is compared to the same stat on the opponents’ card. The card that is highest in that stat between all players wins the “battle.” In the case of a tie all players draw another card from the top of the deck and have to compare the same stat again on the new cards.
The special cards are the only ones with stats in the “Extremely” level, all of the other cards max out at “Very, very.” These special cards are also worth 2 cards when doing the end of game scoring.
That’s pretty much it. War with some choices. Oh, and you can play up to four places, which is another bonus over War.
It’s the fact that there are choices in this game that put it a step above Squelch! based on the rules right out of the box. I didn’t feel the need to house rule this one, though the kids did try a variant where you draw two cards and pick one to use, but risk both if you lose. It just seemed to make the game twice as quick without actually adding anything to the game.
What I found most interesting myself is that this is the same mechanic that was used in Citadel Combat Cards, something else released by Games Workshop. These were themed sets of cards showcasing extremely well painted Citadel miniatures. Along with the picture of the minis each card had a set of 5 stats.
Each set of cards had a game you could play, with a different set of rules in each of the six sets. One of the games was these rules exactly. You each drew a card, the active player picked a stat to battle on and the winner kept the loser’s card. Ties even worked the same.
Now Combat Cards came out in 1988, before the Troll Games first advertised in White Dwarf 108.
Having finally gotten these two classic Games Workshop games off my pile of shame I was ready to call it a night, but Little G insisted we had to also play Oi! Dat’s My Leg. Seems my girl may be as obsessed with Games Workshop as I was as a kid. Who was I to say no?
Now I have played Oi! Dat’s My Leg many, many times and of the three games, I personally think it’s the most fun of the bunch. While it has problems, there are meaningful decisions to be made and it actually feels like those decisions have an impact on whether or not I’ve won or lost the game in the end.
In Oi! Dat’s My Leg players are playing Gobbos trying to steal Troll “bits” and make their own personal Trolls. A complete Troll consists of a Head, a Body and a set of Legs. The first player to build two complete Trolls wins.
Gobbos collect Troll bits by moving around on a board with a path that is basically two overlapping figure eights. They start in the scrap yard in the middle of the far left ring, the pile of Troll Bits (represented by tiles) is in the middle of the central ring and the last ring surrounds the Troll Jail. The Troll himself (who is obviously missing a leg) hops around the central track and moves after every other player has taken a turn.
As can be expected, Oi! Dat’s My Leg is a roll and move game. Each turn the player rolls and then moves their Gobbo the number of spaces rolled and then takes the action on the spot they stop on. These spots are a mix of traditional roll and move spaces (move forward, move back, roll again and the infamous: Miss a Turn), and spots that give you Troll bits. When a player gets a Troll bit they start building their own personal Trolls in a personal tableau. Each player can only have three Trolls going at once and any extra bits are tossed in the junk pile.
Mixed in with the Troll Bits, players will also find Junk Tiles. these are piles of Junk that you play onto other player’s Trolls (replacing a Head, Body or Legs). When a Troll is made up of Junk it can’t win the game. Players with Junk on their Trolls can return to the Scrap Heap to get rid of the Junk tiles. The pile of bits also includes “Oi! Dat’s My…” cards. Those let players steal a Troll Bit from another player (though you can’t steal bits from a completed Troll)
So what about that Troll in the middle of the board? Well, he hops around, in a clockwise direction, at the end of every round, and if he ends up on a Gobbo’s space he captures the Gobbo, takes all Troll bits from unfinished Trolls that the Gobbo has, and tosses the Gobbo into the Troll Jail. In the Jail players will get Monopoly flashbacks as they have to roll a 5 or 6 to escape and when they don’t they miss a turn.
That’s pretty much it. Roll and move around the track in a race to find bits mixed in with some take-that mechanisms.
The fact that the path is a couple of figure eights means that there are decisions to be made on some but not all rolls. Do you hang around the center ring where all the best spots to get Bits are, while risking getting caught by the Troll? Do you play it safe and stick near the Junk Heap where there isn’t much chance of getting Bits but you probably aren’t going to lose any either? When you get a piece of Junk where do you place it? Can you remember how many heads have been drawn, or are Legs now rare?
While this game has some horrible mechanics in it, the most heinous being the miss-a-turn spots and the terribly broken Jail, it’s still quite fun for what it is. My kids love it. Hearing Big G laugh and laugh every turn her sister can’t get out of Jail almost makes me think that mechanic is tolerable. Almost.
We’ve tried a few house rules in this one. One being, instead of missing a turn the next turn you only move half speed. Another being that when in Jail every time you don’t get out the Troll gets agitated and moves again, so at least that player has something to do on their turn. The last was that who moves the Troll rotates each turn and the Troll can leave the central track. We often combined this one with the Jail one so that the player in Jail can actually chase down the other players. All of these worked well enough, but most of the time we don’t bother and just play RAW (Rules As Written).
So, there you have a look at some Games Workshop history. Three classic Kids Games from the makers of Warhammer, created at a time when the company took themselves and everything about their games much less seriously.
Have you played any of these silly kids games?