Board Games Published by Chaosium
During my tenure as President of Chaosium, we produced a lot of great board games. Although I did not have a hand in developing the games below, it was often my decision to publish them. Here's a chronological breakdown of the games I remember from those days. You can see the board games I designed here.
By Don Dupont
I met Don Dupont when he approached me at a convention and unrolled a hex map onto my table. I’ve always been interested in the Bronze Age and so asked him to come to my office to demonstrate it. I was impressed and agreed to publish it. When I mentioned the problem of getting art he assured me it would not be a problem, as he could do it. That worried me a bit. Amateur artists who insist on doing their own work are often terrible, and their insistence is a real impediment to the project.
I need not have worried. Don had been educated as an archeologist and been on digs. He had that archeologist’s hand at the drawings. His work was great, and the illustrations were of archeological objects. The unit counters were from Mycenaean vase paintings. The map was a simple design, hex map.
One unique factor of the game was the HUGE movement rate of the mounted units. Another was the use of individual heroes as well as army units.
Interestingly, though no games on the Bronze Age had ever been done, at the same Origins convention GDW released another one on the same subject!
Lords of the Middle Sea (1978)
By Lynn Willis
I was at a local convention when a stranger approached my table with a big roll. Another game designer, I thought. Of course. He unrolled the map, revealing the continent of North America. Or rather, half of the current continent, as the center of the USA was entirely underwater.
The designer was Lynn Willis and the game was Lords of the Middle Sea. Lynn was already an accomplished and published designer, with a couple of games on the market by GDW and maybe Metagaming too. They didn’t want this weirdo game, but I did! A post-apocalyptic game that wasn’t after a nuclear war. Cool. The entire west coast and Rockies were now Mexico. The area around Denver was valuable for its Helium resources. You could dredge the ancient underwater ruins and pull out exotic resources to use in the game. Way cool!
At the time we were having difficulties doing all the production work, so I asked Lynn if he would be interested in typing up the rule book for production (Yes, type, on a Selectric typewriter. Those were the days.) He agreed. We produced it and Chaosium released two board games at Origins that year.
Lords of the Middle Sea won the 1978 Game Designer's Guild Select Award.
By Tadashi Ehara and Lynn Willis
One player takes on the role of 18 tiny little elves trying to defend (or take over?) a garden from Thunderpumper the Giant. The other player takes on the role of the giant’s feet. predictably, the giant tries (and often succeeds) to stomp the little elves. The elves try very hard to tie down the giant’s feet. It's a silly little game to be sure.
This was the first of our little “minigames.”
Reich: The Iron Dream of German Unification (1979)
By Jonathan A. Michael
We seemed to be hitting our stride in 1979. We had begun to get games submitted to us by mail, by people I didn’t know or meet on a convention floor. I never met Jonathan A. Michael, the designer of this one.
It was an interesting diplomatic game about the unification of Germany by Bismark. Certainly the subject had never been covered before — always a plus with a new game. We test played it quite a bit, though I was never entirely satisfied that we got all the bugs out of the interrelationships between the cards. But the board was pretty.
This game got Charlie Krank into Chaosium. No one worked for me that I did not know, and he was newly come to California, and volunteered to test play and then, to help do layout and design, which was his college education. He was very heavily involved in this, and as a result of his commitment and qualification, he was hired shortly afterwards
Raiders and Traders (1979)
By Don Dupont
Don Dupont, the archeologist, had moved into a house across the street from me. He’d been working on this game for some time, and we would test play it during the design phase and we became good friends (I was later best man at his wedding.)
This game is a large-scale economic and war game set in the Mycenean Age and involves the many bronze age city-states around the Aegean Sea. Once again, Don did all the work for art and layout, and the ma I absolutely gorgeous. It is area movement, and each area with a production value, and the output is used to do trade, and to build fleets or armies. Each turn is a generation, and each player has a dynasty whose members can marry and thereby secure a temporary peace between players. A set of deity cards are an optional rule, each of which provides a bonus of some sort.
I have always loved this game because of its simplicity and replay value. One of the fascinating things about it is that generally wars are begun only by the richest player, who can afford the risk; and/or the poorest, who has the least to lose. Also, seeming to lend weight to its veracity, just about every game I ever played ended with almost all of the players teaming up to jointly attack Troy.
Panzer Pranks (1980)
By Kurt Lortz, developed by Lynn Willis
Kurt sent us the initial game for this, but Lynn really developed it to the height of its amusing potential. It violates just about every convention of standard board war games. For instance, movement points can be saved up from turn to turn and all expended at once. It has line of sight rules, so that hills or terrain obstacles obstruct sight. However, by stacking the unit counters on top of each other the top unit can see over the obstacle. Tanks can make bank shots off the edge of the board. A mini scenario is about the Polish Corridor—watch out for the umbrella stand! It is a real credit to Lynn’s game design ability that it is not only a funny game, but an actual workable game which, once you discard the accrued years of playing “realistic” simulations, is fun too.
This was the second of our “minigames.”
Arkham Horror (1987)
By Richard Launius, developed by Lynn Willis, Charlie Krank, Sandy Petersen
Several years passed without board games as Chaosium flowered in the roleplaying market. But when we got this one we knew we had to publish it.
The players wander around the streets of the city of Arkham, ducking into buildings to seek goods and spells to help them destroy the horde of monsters that stalk the streets. Characters could travel into other worlds as well.
This was quite unusual in that it was cooperative between all the players as they worked for a common goal. It was possible for everyone to lose as well.
A newer version was released by Fantasy Flight Games in 2005 with several supplements as well.
- 1988 Origins Award for Best Fantasy Boardgame
By Chris Gidlow
Chris is a medieval historian and a gamer, and he designed this absolutely delightful game about what most people consider to be an ungamable event, the Nicene Council. This was a meeting of Christian bishops from all across the Roman Empire to decide on what Christianity really believed, since there were at that time multiple competing versions. By the end of the political wrangling and personal finagling they came up with the Credo (Latin “I believe.”)
The game manages to introduce all this with humor and style, and a simple, amusing game system. Using cards that represent key imperial and saintly figures, plus the hordes of believers, players vote on just what they do believe, selecting parts of the Credo from the many historical versions of Christianity of the time. The result is not always the current version, and gives rise to speculation on what the world would be like if the bishops had agreed that “I believe in two Gods…” or any of the other many, many variants of this once-malleable religion.