Monday, December 6, 2010

Recent Acquisition

One of the reasons I've been talking about SPI's Universe RPG is because I recently acquired the boxed first edition of the game, which you can see below in a rather poor photo I took of it.

I won't deny that I really like boxed games. I don't think their return would, as some people seem to believe, herald a return to the halcyon days of the hobby, but I do think boxes place physical constraints on a game's design. If you're going to put a game in a box, it can't have a 400-page rulebook, for example.

Likewise, I hope, perhaps naively, that a box might also nudge a designer into recognizing "completeness" as a virtue. One of the neat things about the Universe boxed set is that it really does contain everything you'd ever need to play: the rules spread over two books (one 72 pages long and the other 24 pages long), plus a star map, dice, a tactical display for starship combat, 200 counters, and a nice little tray to hold them all in. The set sold for $20.00 in 1981, which would likely be more than double that in today's dollars, but you know what? I'd balk a lot less at $50 boxed sets if they really did have all you ever needed to play.

Anyway, I'm reveling in the goodness of Universe at the moment. I wish I had a copy of the boxed edition of DragonQuest too, but they seem much harder to come by and, when they do appear, they sell for ridiculous prices. Ah well.

15 comments:

  1. I don't think I have ever heard of "Universe" before...I think I'm going to have to look into it. It looks like it could have some really applications and possible modifications.

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  2. I remember that game as well. I was too busy with Dragonquest to look into it and then of course SPI was gobbled up by TSR. The cover always caught my attention.

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  3. One of the most astonishing things about the game (from my viewpoint) is the utter lack of illustrations in the main rulebook. You have a few sample world environ logs, but nothing else. The front cover art is what you get.

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  4. SPI was all about the die-cut counters.

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  5. And the counter tray (the black thing in the box)

    @James you should unfold the starmap and get a shot of that.

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  6. A few months ago, I flipped through a copy of SPI Universe (Gamemasters' Guide) at a local Half Priced Books. I could only skim it for so long, because it was quite dense; it read like a technical manual. Not appealing to me.

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  7. I have the boxed set. Though I bought mine when it was first released. :)

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  8. Universe was a game I always wanted to like but never quite got into. Mainly because material for it was hard to come by in my neck of the woods (Brooklyn, NY as a kid) and partially because it was just way to complex and math-y.

    I really, really don't like math. Depise it actually. Anything more complicated than basic addition and subtraction begins to annoy me with calculus causing serious berserker rage. ;)

    Yet I like Champions. Hmmm...

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  9. For anybody interested in Universe, here is a Yahoo! group that might be of interest:
    [url]http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/Universe_RPGDevelopment/?yguid=261834573[/url]

    Though there hasn't been any activity in a while, there are some interesting resources available there.

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  10. I liked the cover. It hit almost all the required cliches with the Spaceman, the Babe, the Robot, and the Spaceships. All that was missing was the Alien.

    The game itself was nigh unplayable sadly.

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  11. Wow, I completely forgot owning this back in the day until just seeing the cover here. Must.. resist.. eBay...

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  12. I have a copy of the boxed set and the Bantam edition, I believe. As for boxed sets and constraints, and no 400-page rulebooks, I'm not entirely sure that's accurate. Traveller New Era (Deluxe) came in a box. My TNE box contains the rulebook which is dense and easily 250 to 300 pages. It also contains a copy of the forms book, and Fire,Fusion&Steel (the tech book), which is another 160-ish page tome. A comfortable fit. I'm not sure I could fit the Gateway Domain sourcebook (another 200-ish pages) in to the box, without it pushing the lid up, but I might...

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  13. Never played "Universe", but the cover has a real "old school SPI flavor". I'm lucky enough to still own my good ol'DragonQuest boxed set, and I share your point of view about those boxed games. DragonQuest, Call of Chtulhu, Daredevils, Bushido, Flashing Blades... So complete and yet, so "light" rulebooks...

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  14. My problem with box sets is that books will survive quite a bit of damage, and don't casually shed pages. Almost all my box sets, OTOH, are at least partially crushed, and all the pieces being there is a good sign it only got a quick going-over once.

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  15. Wow. I just picked up a Bantam copy of Universe (and DragonQuest) the other month. I remember seeing copies at the local department store in CT (Caldor's, I believe) around '82. I managed to buy a copy of DQ back then (but lost it after High School) but was never able to acquire (or read) Universe until recently.

    I too have been reveling in the goodness of Universe (and it's rough spots). It's been a lot of fun to read, and very satisfying. Added to that, I was given the opportunity to read nearly the whole line of SPI's ARES magazine (also for the first time).

    I still find the wargames outline style to be a bit grating, and this from someone who works with such structure (contracts) all day long.

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