Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Quirks

(Because there are so many ads to cover, even within a single issue, The Ads of Dragon is going to be a semiweekly series, with installments appearing every Tuesday and Thursday).

Today's advertisement comes from issue #57 (January 1982) and it's not of a RPG but some other type of game. I'm honestly not sure if it was a boardgame or not, since it certainly wasn't clear from the ad. Regardless, Quirks, "the game of un-natural selection," was published by Eon Products, whose most famous game was Cosmic Encounter. Even though I never owned a copy or played it, I knew what Cosmic Encounter was, because it was one of those games that everyone knew about. Plus, you could buy copies of it in hobby stores right next to the Avalon Hill and SPI wargames.

Despite my utter lack of knowledge of what this game was about, I was strangely fascinated by Quirks. Eon ran ads for it in a lot of issues of Dragon and the very fact that the ad said so little about the game other than that it involved "thousands and thousands of monsters" only added to my curiosity. Mind you, this was true of a lot of games I saw advertised in Dragon back in the day. There were all these ads for games I never saw in the stores -- and remember, back then, even "normal" game and toy stores carried lots of RPGs and wargames -- which suggested to me that the hobby really was much bigger and more diverse than the small part of it I knew in suburban Baltimore. That's pretty heady stuff.

As an aside, I also find this advertisement nostalgic, since it references OMNI, which I remember well from those days. If I had to encapsulate the strange Zeitgeist of the late 70s and early 80s in a single periodical, OMNI would definitely be a strong contender for consideration. My father often picked up copies of it and I'd read some of the articles in its pages, as well as some of its fiction. It was a very odd mix of science fact and science fiction, with a good dose of general weirdness. Reminiscing about OMNI is probably a topic for another day ...


  1. Cosmic is one of my favourite games of all time. I've played about 150 times and we still regularly dig it out. Like D&D, it's suffered from multiple editions which failed to capture the essence of the original despite "better" production values.

    If anyone knows of a source for CE cards, our set is getting very worn.

    Quirks is an interesting game but quite top-notch. The system is based about the old "pick a head, pick a body, pick some legs" flip books many of us had as kids. There's a scoring system for various body parts (there are plants too) depending on environment and the object is to evolve the most successful animal/plant. There's synergies between animals (and plants) based on diet, for example - eating honey is a bonus if another player has a honey making animal in play.

    Useful inspiration for GW, of course.

  2. These are interesting tidbits. I was never intrigued enough by the Quirks ads to do more than glance briefly at them, but I certainly do remember them.

    Idea for a future series of Ads of Dragon: the "Window on Jorune" serial ads from the 1984/1985 issues of Dragon. Think they start around issue 91 or 92, and there are maybe 4 or 5 of them.

  3. OMNI was awesome. I loved that magazine when I was a kid. So much pseudo-science getting so much serious treatment!

  4. Quirks was more of a card game than a board game. You got to evolve your creatures by combining a head with a body/legs and a tail (or roots, stalk, and limbs/flowers) if a plant. Each card added various traits to your species, and by linking appropriate qualities with the temperature and environment you scored points (representing that yours was the most successful species).

    [As for Cosmic Encounters, the Eon edition was always my favourite. Later versions just didn't have the same feel.]

  5. I know this may sound silly, but one of my favorite things about the ads was the font used. That font was used for most of the text in Dragon, wasn't it?

    I guess that since I enjoyed the magazine so much, I associated its main font with "fun"!

    Does anyone know the name of the font used? I'm talking specifically about the one at the bottom of the above ad, referencing "Dorchester, Massachusetts".

  6. Omni just had so many cool articles and weird ads... I remember the Dragon ads for games that never made it off of the ground or were so obscure, we knew only half of them if we were lucky. What a fun post :)

  7. My dad also read OMNI on and off back in the day. Unless I'm mistaken it's were I first heard mention of Dungeons and Dragons though it would be a year or more before I actually played. Here was one of those ads, though the one I remember had the French but they were at a dinner party with some crazy knight or some such.

  8. The font in the ad is Souvenir

  9. I still have my copy of Quirks, and occasionally I get to play it with my daughter. It was and still is a good game. My gaming group and I played it quite often, back when we were around 15 or so.
    Cosmic Encounter is of course one of the great games of all time. I have the Mayfair version, which is good, although it had a bit too many unnecessary extras. Eon version was the best, naturally.

  10. Pat - thank you!! I found and downloaded Souvenir and it's just what I was looking for. Interesting that a font that's so nostalgic for me should be called "Souvenir". :)

    Question - how in the world did you know??

  11. I always wanted to pick up Quirks too! I loved the ads but none of my stores ever carried it.

  12. The Dragon Ad that always captured my attention, was the Amber Diceless add, with the faceless attackers. Eventually I bought Amber after running across it at a game store, and it was largely in part to years of seeing that ad in Dragon.

  13. There were all these ads for games I never saw in the stores ... which suggested to me that the hobby really was much bigger and more diverse than the small part of it I knew in suburban Baltimore.

    Dragon Magazine totally gave me exactly the same feeling. My exposure was probably 5 years later when the hobby was probably starting to decline, and the only stores available to me were the backs of comic book shops. Still I collected back issues of Dragon Magazine, and felt sure there was some huge collective out there if only I could find it. Given all the ads for GenCon and Origins, I was pretty sure it must be in the mid-west. :)

    I'm not sure if I should feel envious or sympathetic for the current generation, for whom the internet has surely dispelled this phenomenon.

  14. @Jared - because I went and looked it up a few months ago for the project I'm working on, for nostalgic reasons. That and Century Gothic are the two fonts for the classic TSR books & modules (well technically I think it was 'Avant Garde' but Century Gothic is pretty much an exact duplicate)

  15. Cosmic is my drug. I played that in college, skipped many classes and did not do the homework I was suppose to. I love this game. It is a fun fun boardgame.

  16. @Pat -
    Hey, thanks for the Century Gothic tip, as well. I would probably have asked you about that one next! I like that font a lot--brings back memories of reading the A3 module!

    I'm putting together an Excel file to organize all the info (character stats, TH rolls, room/monster info) for the dungeons I'm running for my kids, and I think I'll use Souvenir and Century Gothic in it.

    What's your project, by the way?

  17. @Jared - a megadungeon/city setting, should be done within a few weeks. Just doing layout now. Most details are scattered about my blog, http://henchmanabuse.blogspot.com

  18. "Reminiscing about OMNI is probably a topic for another day ..."

    Still waiting, man.

    (tap, tap, tap)