Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stewart Wieck and Nocturnal are Resurrecting West End Games.

On April 13th of this year, Stewart Wieck announced that Nocturnal Media had purchased West End Games from it's past owner Eric Gibson. West End Games (WEG) was founded in 1974 and like many early companies in the role playing game hobby, started off as a publisher of wargames. Prior to their transition into a role-playing game publisher, WEG produced a number of classic wargames including Cosmic Encounter, Junta, and Kamakura. The company made a major leap into "hobby" wargames when they published Bug-Eyed Monsters and Web and Starship, both designed by Greg Costikyan, in 1983 and 1984. When WEG finally jumped into the role-playing game market, they did so with quite a splash with the Paranoia role-playing game, a game that combined a simple rules set with a comic sensibility that mocked Cold War fears and the role-playing game hobby.

WEG would eventually add a host of high quality licensed role-playing games like Star Wars and Ghostbusters and unlicensed games like The Price of Freedom and Torg to a strong line of hobby games that included Tales of the Arabian Nights, Druid, and Tank Leader. For a time, WEG was one of the biggest brands in the hobby and their rapid decline came as a surprise to many fans, but the company managed to limp along as it moved from one owner to another. None of the owners could quite manage to recapture the particular combination of mechanics and settings that made WEG a force in the hobby.

Now the company has transitioned into the hands of Stewart Wieck, one of the leading names in the modern gaming hobby, who has a long history in the gaming hobby dating back to his days with White Wolf Publishing (a company he co-founded in high school) and which includes stints working on the Star Wars and Torg properties as a freelancer.

While some may be skeptical that Wieck can revive WEG and bring success back to the brand, I'm fairly optimistic about the endeavor. Wieck has a long track record in the industry and his company Nocturnal has done a good job with Pendragon. Additionally, Wieck has a detailed knowledge of the direct to digital RPG marketplace. One of the first things that Wieck is planning as WEG owner is to add Print on Demand versions of the WEG "in house" d6 RPG gamebooks. He is also planning to do a Kickstarter launch of the classic WEG board game Web and Starship.

 According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Web and Starship is a :
Board and counter Wargame (1984). West End Games (WEG). Designed by Greg Costikyan.

Web and Starship is a Hard SF Wargame played on a two-dimensional map of nearby stars, with the third dimension represented by notations on the display. The setting is asymmetric; there are three players, each of whom has different capabilities. The Pereen can travel between stars by means of an instantaneous "Web", but must use slower-than-light probes to add new planets to the network, while the Gwynhyfarr use Faster Than Light ships, which are too small to move large amounts of material from one star to another. As a result, the Pereen will generally win in any ground combat, while the Gwynhyfarr forces are superior in space engagements. The third player, Earth, has access to both the Web and faster than light starships, but begins the game with limited versions of both Technologies, which only slowly improve. Earth is initially located directly between the Pereen and Gwynhyfarr spheres of influence, leading to a great deal of diplomacy as player alliances form and reform. The result is an interesting exercise in strategy in which gameplay is generally focused on economic expansion, interrupted by intermittent warfare.

Image Source Scott Smith

If we can talk Wieck into republishing Bug-Eyed Monsters as well, there are at least two WEG products that will be added to my must own list.

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