Tag Archives: top secret

I LOVE good used book stores!

If you’re ever in Phoenix or Tucson, AZ (or Flagstaff, for that matter), there’s a great used book store chain called Bookmans.  They’re not as good as Powell’s in Portland, but few things are.  Aside from books, they have a great selection of movies, music, console games, and other games.  I found a second edition copy of the West End Games Star Wars d6 rules when I was last in Phoenix.

But I’m not talking about Bookman’s at the moment.  I’m talking about the Las Cruces, NM store, Coas.  They also have a great selection of books, not so much movies and music.  But their store on Solano has all of their games, and it’s managed fairly well.  I was extremely happy to find a copy of the original 1980 release of TSR’s Top Secret.  For $10.  And with the insane amount of credit that I have with them, I got it for about $2.

To the best of my knowledge, Top Secret is the first spy/espionage game, predating Hero’s Espionage and later Danger, International and Flying Buffalo’s Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.  To give you an idea of how old it is, the address for TSR does not have Zip+4, just a plain ol’ five digit zip code.  And the box does not have a UPC bar code.  I laughed at that.

To be sadly honest, Top Secret is not a very good game.  I played it a fair amount, and it doesn’t stand up to later espionage games.  But there is a quaint charm to it, not unlike people who play early editions of D&D.

So why did I buy it?  Well, I have a soft spot in my heart for the first games that I cut my teeth on, and Top Secret is one of them.  Plus, I’m writing a personal 2.0 edition of Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.  MSPE is a decent game, but it has some shortcomings and is easy to kitbash, and I thought it might be useful to peruse Top Secret and see if it has anything to offer for my MSPE mods.

I’m silly that way.  Or, if you asked my wife, I’m just silly.

(and if you’re ever in Las Cruces, I’d be happy to recommend some good restaurants)

(and I hope to finish off the Reverb list very soon, got hit with a really nasty bronchitis last week and I’m still recovering)

The Atlas Games/Reverb Gamers Master List for 2012

I have a great admiration for Atlas Games.  They’re one of the bigger companies and release a lot of good product.  On January 1 they released a list of 31 questions about your life as a gamer.  It’s a list to encourage reflection and some exploration and exposition.  And though I’m two days behind with little or no intention of catching up, here’s #1:

What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it? How did that introduction shape the gamer you’ve become?

I don’t have a clear memory of my first exposure to gaming.  I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy as a kid, and they were in different sections of the book store at that time, and probably had my first exposure to gaming via Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker books, published in the late 60’s.  He worked with Flying Buffalo which included berserkers in the Star Web play-by-mail game (that’s postal mail, not email).  Though I did not drive at the time, it listed Flying Buffalo as being located in Scottsdale, Arizona, maybe 15 miles or so from my parent’s house.  A friend who had a driver’s license was getting in to this stuff, and we went out there and were amazed.  My initial purchases were TSR’s first edition white box D&D, the one with three books, along with GDW’s Traveller and TSR’s Top Secret.  And, of course, Flying Buffalo’s Tunnels & Trolls.

At that time, in the late 70’s, about the only fantasy role-playing games were D&D and T&T.  I like simplicity (a strange thing to hear from someone who played Champions for 25 years), and I did not like the complexity of D&D.  Too many tables and dice, and flipping through more than one book to play a game just isn’t for me.  T&T was a lot easier and only used d6, but it had one huge advantage: solo dungeons.  Buffalo published A LOT of solitaire adventures over the years, along with several campaigns.  They were a lot of fun because you could buy the box set, which came with a couple of solos, and you didn’t need a group, which was good, because there were no groups in my area.

So I was largely self-introduced to roleplaying.

How did it shape the gamer that I became?  I’ve always been a fan of simple systems, and I think T&T was a major influence in that regard.  I’ve played I don’t know how many games over the years of varying complexity, and I’ve always trended towards simpler systems.  It might be that certain games, and certain styles of games, appeal more to my internal logic, and this lets me make the statement that I think Champions is a simple system.  It’s a very logical structure, and if you understand it, pretty much the only time that you need the rules is to design new characters or gadgets.  It has its problems with physics and the like, but every game system has problems like that.

When I design games, I try to keep them simple, and normally I use a d6.  I try to follow the Cheap Ass Games model of a single sheet of rules (when I can) and everything fitting in a 6×9 envelope.  I know it might not work for every design that I have, but I think it’s a good model.  And following that, d6 are a lot more available than d12’s.


The Reverb Gamers Master List can be found at http://blog.atlas-games.com/2011/12/reverb-gamers-master-list.html and on the Atlas Facebook page.

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