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Video Steve Jackson Games Shows Off Their Latest Tabletop Games at SXSW (Video) 95

Steve Jackson Games occupies a special place in the history of gaming, not only for publishing some of the best-known tabletop games ever published, especially their distinctive microgames, but the company's failure to roll over in the aftermath of an FBI raid more than 20 years ago led to the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Since 1980, Steve Jackson and company have been publishing games -- and a magazine, and even a book. The company is based in Austin, Texas, so while I was at SXSW, I had a chance to meet up with SJG's Chief Operating Officer and Managing Editor, Philip Reed, who gave a quick overview of what's new on the table. (Har har.)
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Steve Jackson Games Shows Off Their Latest Tabletop Games at SXSW (Video)

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  • pretty cool stuff.

    I really want the oger poster

    • and the ogre poster too

      • To heck with the poster, I want Ogre 6e!!! I was hoping Phil would say something about it, but apparently not. Still, everything I'm hearing says sometime towards the end of the year, so here's hoping...

  • Hillbilly mutt 20 is now an existentialist Armageddon.

    Now use Gamemaker.

  • Car Wars? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tmshort ( 1097127 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:10AM (#39450029)

    I miss Car Wars.
    I had lots of fun playing that after school and playing the cheesy computer game based on it (which came with a mini-toolkit in the box - no more swag like that in games any more!).

    SJG stopped publishing supplements and revised the system. Unfortunately, they over-simplified it and effective killed it.

    • by j4w7 ( 2530032 )
      !!! CAR WARS !!! CAR WARS !!! CAR WARS !!! CAR WARS !!! CAR WARS !!! CAR WARS !!! I keep waiting for a modern computer game for that. Can you -imagine- that as a MMORPG? I loved Car Wars. My friends and I had so much fun with that. Arenas, City Blocks, full-blown RPG campaigns. *sigh* I miss ADQ. Pyramid ain't the only mag they've published, ya know.
      • A MMOFPS version of Car Wars. The game I've been waiting for since I bought my pocket box version of Car Wars back in '82. I understand they've been waiting till it can be done right but I really want to see this before my time is up.

        Also, an updated version of Ogre for PCs or even tablets.

        • Wow, yes, a Car Wars MMO would be great.

          I still have my original ziplock bag version. My friends and I had a lot of good, wholesome, psychopathic fun with that game.

      • There was one, sorta, called , it latest about 1 year before they shut it off. []
        While it wasn't the gritty 'car wars' or 'autoduel' feel, it was.. well.. an MMO in a post-apoc like setting, primarily featuring Cars and guns and flamethrowers..

        There is a newer more indie title that a gritty feel post-apoc car-based tabletop mini-game, unfortunately the name is escaping me.. I believe it's only a year or two old however...

      • it was tried once with auto assault. []
        • by TBedsaul ( 95979 )

          Ironically, I was a beta tester for Auto Assault. I even got a blurb in their marketing materials. Unfortunately, that was before I ever played it. 3rd person perspective, nothing meaningful when the player was out of the car (a ped should have the option of taking on a car, no matter how suicidal), no positional damage and an overall game mechaninc that was less Car Wars and more WoW on roller skates really runined that game.

          Planetside probably came closer than anything I've experienced. A couple of ha

        • Hmm, the Car Wars wikipedia page has a link to:


          which definitely sounds like it's worth a look. Now to somehow make it through 4 more hours of work...

    • I miss Car Wars too, even when people would do hilariously broken crap like the Copula Car. The smallest motor, driver, and a single machine gun would fit in the four spaces available in the copula, and that let you have a car body with no armor and nothing critical. Combine that with the total inability of other vehicle weapons to hit a copula unless their guns had the anti-aircraft modification, and you've got the cheesiest tournament winner ever.

      • I used a car with a ripple fire rocket system and two 6-shot rocket pods. It made a hell of a mess. My mate took the concept one stage further to have a car that had 4 6-shots mounted pointing down and jump jets. He used to go head-to-head with ram cars and then jump over them and turn them into polos on the way over...
    • I would buy Car Wars instantly if I could find a copy. Maybe I should go look. Damn that was a fine game.
  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:11AM (#39450035)

    Isn't it funny how, while manufacturers outrace Moore's Law in their efforts to deliver the most impressive "gaming experience", Jackson continues to produce engaging and entertaining titles running on pre-1980 hardware?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not really sure what your point is. Yea, SJG serves a niche market and is relatively successful doing so, but surely your suggestion isn't that all game developers would be better served following suit? I mean, SJG pulls in a couple million in revenue each year, the major studios pull in a couple of billion. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with SJG's model, but obviously a different model is working out pretty well for the major studios.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:13AM (#39450057) Journal
    According to Steve Jackson's page that the summary is linked to, the raid was conducted by the Secret Service, not the FBI, which seems odd to me. Why would the SS be involved in a data piracy investigation, unless it involved national security?
  • by Rurouni_Jaden ( 846065 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:17AM (#39450089)
    SJ Games will have a special place in my heart because of GURPS. A great roleplaying system that really helps bring about the roleplaying aspect, instead of just the tabletop wargame aspect. Plus you gotta love an RPG that sticks with a version for 15+ years, vs. other systems that try to get you to replace all your books every 3 years.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      GURPS is still alive and well, it's used to bring back to life a lot of dead games like Morrow Project.

      • Oh, yeah, I love the 4th edition rules. My current GURPS game is hitting 3 years, very much enjoying it. In a d20 system all the players would be demigods by now.
        • There's nothing wrong with playing demigods, if that's your cup of tea. As long as the narrator/Game Master/Dungeon Master and players approach the game with knowledge up front about where their characters are heading and consent to that type of game, it's fine.

          I was turned off to standard d20 and its variants (starting with Dungeons and Dragons 3rd and 3rd revised editions, all of the way through the Pathfinder RPG) because of two features: 1. The distinction between arcane and divine magic and res
          • Dammit, I forgot the markup rules for slashdot. Please forgive the [i] ... [/i] above.
          • Oh, I agree that playing demigods is a viable path, but I like not having it be an inevitable path. d20 will generally follow the farmboy to deity route pretty faithfully. That's fine, but I was aiming for something different. I like that in my game each piece of good equipment is pretty special and people tend to hold onto them more... adds more of a storybook vibe. In my experience, by the time someone hits level 10 or so in a d20 game, they are leaving +1 swords as tips at restaurants.
            • Yes. If you'll forgive me for pimping FantasyCraft some more (though I am not affiliated with the game or its creators in any way) they have a tunable mechanic for restricting the amount of supernatural gear the characters have. Player characters get Reputation Points for heroic acts and can spend the points on holdings (a farm, a keep, control of a merchant guild, a castle), titles (knight, baron, duke, captain), and gear (traditional magic weapons, arm, and wands). The Game Master can take those holdi
      • Wow, The Morrow Project. I just unpacked some boxes and found my original rule books for that.

        Also found my Fringeworthy (and a couple of other games by the same company) stuff. My friends and I loved the damage system.

      • Really? gurps is still alive? Even non-player characters? Are you sure? I thought I was dead.
    • SJ Games will always have a special place in my heart because they're the only publisher with the balls to make a real commitment to e-books. If I had a dollar for every book I didn't buy because I don't care for non-searchable dead trees, I'd be getting ripped off. Because I have twenty dollars for every book I didn't buy.

      • by rreay ( 50160 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:16AM (#39450825)

        For a number of years now Hero Games has put out a PDF of every book. They even offer PDF/physical sets

      • Try (If I recall the name correctly), it's dominated by PDF copies of a wide range of RPG/Tabletop books and publishers...

        I used to admire GURPS, but they don't seem to want to move on to an online age... I moved my campaign stuff to obsidianportal because my group spread out and stopped meeting physically. SJG started sending copyright take down notices initially for as little as one repeated paragraph from a source (posted to clarify something among players) and now they send me takedo

    • Agreed. We're currently about two years into a GURPS story. Personally I think the best part about it is the fact that it lacks any hard-defined setting. Yes, that means your GM needs to do more work up front, but then again, it also allows the GM to completely determine the setting. Our story is set in a Stargate-ish modern setting with Sci-fi elements, something that you won't quickly find in any of the "pre-defined" settings.
      • Yes, it is more work for the GM up front, but I find it more rewarding. I've found creating my own 'player's guide' to the campaign is very helpful for the players to design their characters. GURPS does so much with allies, dependents, contacts, etc., and without some knowledge of the setting, the PC's can't do much there. I also put together cheat sheets for players who took skills like area knowledge or history, giving them some tidbits that the other players don't. I started out making maps, which we
    • by timftbf ( 48204 )

      My bugbear with GURPS was that I could never find any advice on how to provide appropriate challenges for the players. I could see how to gauage the difficulty of a particular skill check for a known group of characters, but extrapolating from that to designing an adventure was beyond me, particularly if there was going to be any combat involved. It's a shame, it seemed a nice system...

      • That is definitely something that takes some getting used to. The d20 monster manuals with challenge ratings does make it easier to set up that sort of thing. GURPS doesn't have a hard and fast rule for encounters. You can build a 500 point character/creature that is a total pushover in combat or a 100 point foe that is just a death machine. I normally focus on the enemy's primary attack, figuring out how frequently it will likely hit and how much damage it will do, depending on how much armor the PC is
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:17AM (#39450101) Homepage

    Car Wars and Ogre.

    Come on man, stop hording your games!

  • Just made my friday, thanks, I'm off later tonight to get my D&D4e fix which I do every friday night so it's perfect that THIS article would show up on /. on a friday, making me wish it was 7pm instead of 9am... :( (I just crit my pants!)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:33AM (#39450255)

    ...had the displeasure of exchanging emails with him many years ago. That's when he informed me that if you play his games everyone playing the game must own a copy of the rules else he will sue the players without rules for copyright infringment. There are more details involved but that nicely summarizes it. Beyond that, he assured me that if you were to play any of his games via any of the online board game interfaces (there are several options including WebRPG and OpenRPG), then you need to pay him thousands in royalties else he will sue you for stealing his games and creating a video game with it.

    Growing up I was a big fan of his games, including Car Wars, Ogre, and Traveler. I've never played nor purchased another game of his since. I encourge everyone to stay away from this very irrational and greedy person until such time he stops beliving everyone who plays his games using modern technology owes him tons more money, or worse, are in violation of copyright simply simply playing a game with friends.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anarchduke ( 1551707 )
      umm yeah. sorry but I'm thinking you are full of shit.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Ummm - sorry, But it is you that is full of shit. I was a developer for OpenRPG at the time. The results were shared with other active developers. If you bother to get off your butt and check, he has a reputation for being unstable and paranoid, perhaps even delusional. His baseless accusations he made in that exchange very much fell in line with reading I had done years before. This was his reaction to asking if a FREE, non-commercial OpenRPG server could be used with his blessing to promote his games - wh

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's interesting that I read this here and not in a more tabletop-focused medium. I suspect that to really gain credibility you'd have to offer up some pretty compelling evidence that you weren't doing something that made them uncomfortable (like trying to distribute PDFs of the rules freely) in the course of your project.

          Now, if you had said this was Kevin Siembieda and Palladium, I'd totally believe you, as the behavior you're describing fits him to a tee.

      • by tilante ( 2547392 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @10:22AM (#39450883)
        I wouldn't go so far as "full of shit", but there's almost certainly more to the story. For the curious, I'd suggest looking at SJ Games Online Policy: [] There, you'll find that SJ Games encourages free fan-created tools for their games, but if you want to charge, they require that you get a license from them.
        • SJG has actively pursued many people playing online in various forms and does in fact require all players to have their own copies of the books used online. I've been subject to some of their C&D claims for stuff that didn't use any of their works, but used their rule set.

          • by cirby ( 2599 )

            "stuff that didn't use any of their works, but used their rule set."

            In other words, you used their works - the rule set.

            It's amazing how often complaints like this boil down to "I wanted to use someone else's work, but was too cheap to buy the rights, but still wanted to either make money off of the thing or give it away for free."

            Here's the thing: if you need the rules to make the game work, then the rules have value to you - and you should pay for them.

            If not, then make up your own rules. This is the par

            • I referenced their rules within their books, never actually repeating single word of text from them. That is not illegal. However feel free to continue to misconstrue my actions.

  • Transcript (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Friday March 23, 2012 @09:51AM (#39450493)

    Too bad it had a short running time, Castellan [] might be worth a look for somewhat older kids.


    Title: Timothy Lord Checks Out Steve Jackson Games' Latest
    Description: Fun Fact: Steve Jackson made games before there were computers to play them on

    [00:00] <TITLE>
    The Slashdot logo with "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." zooms out to the bottom right corner of a view of 3 custom dice from the game Zombie Dice.

    [00:01] <TITLE>
    A view of Timothy without his signature glasses.

    [00:01] Timothy>
    Not all the gaming action at south-by-southwest (SXSW) was electronic.
    The Catan folks were on hand, and so was Steve Jackson Games.
    Steve Jackson Games has been around since 1980; It's a real Austin stalwart.
    Philip Reed COO of the company took a few minutes to lead us through the company's new tabletop game offerings.

    [00:18] <TITLE>
    The view changes to that of the interviewee, Philip Reed, sitting behind a desk with various board game items on it.

    [00:18] Phil>
    I'm Phil Reed with Steve Jackson Games and I'm gonna show you a couple of our upcoming releases.

    [00:24] Phil>
    Right this year we'll have Dino Hunt Dice out.
    This is for kids 10 and up.
    In the game you are going to go through and look for dinosaurs.
    Like our Zombie Dice game, you will roll the dice, and you want to find dinosaurs so you capture them and bring them back to your zoo.
    This dinosaur's hiding in the leaves, so if you keep going you're gonna roll the die again.
    This dinosaur stepped on me.
    If you get stepped on 3 times, your turn is over, and you don't get to take any of the dinosaurs home with you.
    This is really quick, simple, should be out later this fall.

    [01:05] Phil>
    Also this year we have Castellan.
    This is a two plaer strategy game where each player has cards, [...]

    [01:17] <TITLE>
    The view changes to a closer look at the cards in Phil's hands.

    [01:17] Phil>
    [...] and each player will have the exact same decks of cards.
    The cards allow you to play [...]

    [01:20] <TITLE>
    The view changes back to Phil sitting at the table.

    [01:20] Phil>
    [...] pieces to build a castle.
    On your turn you'll play a card, you'll add pieces to the castle.
    You're trying to score locations, so you wanna fill a courtyard completely, so it's totally walled in.
    At the end of the game this courtyard is worth 5 points - one for each tower.
    The game takes about 30 minutes.
    I think it's my favorite new game we have coming this year.

    [01:46] Phil>
    For things available in stores right now we have the latest Munchkin expansion; "Munchkin 8 - Half Horse, Will Travel".
    This was designed by our Munchkin Tzar, Andrew Hackard and illustrated by John Kovalic.
    It's stupid, silly, fun - it's everything you expect from Munchkin.

    [02:07] Phil>
    Hitting stores in the next couple of weeks is "The Good, The Bad, The Munchkin 2 - Beating a Dead Horse".
    Because, well, that's what we like to do with things.

    [02:19] Phil>
    Also coming out at the same time will be Zombie Dice 2.
    It's the first expansion for our Zombie Dice game.
    These three dice fit right inside this cup.
    You get Santa Claus, who might bring you presents or he might shoot you.
    You also get the The Hunk and The Hottie - these two work together and if you've got one in your brains pile with the other one comes up a shotgun, the brains are rescued, he goes back into the cup, so they're dangerous.
    Notice her fashionable high heels(!)

    [02:52] Phil>
    That's what we've got new.
    Also this later year we'll have Munchkin Conan and Munchkin Apocalypse.

    [02:57] <TITLE>
    The Slashdot logo with "News for nerds. Stuff that matters." fades into view in the bottom right corner and the background changes to the view of the three dice used at the beginning of the video.

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      Too bad it had a short running time, Castellan [] might be worth a look for somewhat older kids.

      The castle game looks really interesting. It seems like a simplified version of go [] with the addition of cards.

      It's the same basic concept - take turns placing pieces in order to capture territory, and more territory captured is worth more points. I could see it being used as a gateway drug for getting someone into go.

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      The Catan folks were on hand

      Doh, forgot to address this bit.

      As much as I love Munchkin (proud owner of Fu and Bites), I think I like Catan way more. The game is really super modular. The easiest thing to do is to create new maps, and it's also pretty fun to create special rulesets and the like.

      I really wish /. had swung by the Catan booth, too.

  • I don't get the chance to get together w/ others and play games very often, but I've always enjoyed playing Ogre, and it would work well w/ role-reversal (human plays the part of the Ogre, computer micro-manages the horde of defending units).

    You could even up-date it by putting the game on the iPad (or some other tablet) ---

    - the iPad function as a game board
    - there's a physical miniature for the Ogre on the center of the display --- tap the displayed hexes around it to move
    - a row o

  • Remember, one of SJG first games was 'Raid on Iran' that was published only weeks after the failed attempt to recuse the hostages from Iran in 1980. We used to say that game was the real reason the FBI first raided them.
  • If you really want Steve to go ballistic, ask him about Howard.

    The split between Steve Jackson and Metagames (the company that first published Ogre and the proto-GURPS Fantasy Trip) was not pleasant,

    • The Ogre, Melee and WarpWar microgames from Metagames were the first wargames I bought with my own money. $2.95 each, I believe. I still have them, somewhere.

  • Its saddening dice games and decade old card games have become SJG's main product. I should probably buy more GURPS stuff.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes