Cosa Bolle in Pentola ? #4 – Andrea Angiolino

16 Dicembre 2005 0

Dear gamers!

The things are going better and better. I’m getting more and more interviews. Starting this project I was worried about getting news and informations from Italian’s designers and publishers but at the moment I have got and answer from all the peoples I have contacted! So I’m ready for my 4th interview. For the ones that really aren’t able to memorize few Italian’s words I repeat that Cosa Bolle in Pentola ? means what is boiling in the pot ? and it is all about work in progress!

For my 4th interview I have reached Andrea Angiolino: a famous Italian gamer, a good designer (Wings of War over all) and also a very good game journalist! I hope he will be not too much disappointed by my amatorial interview!

[Liga] Hi Andrea! So, this time, you are not the journalist! Please, give us an itnroduction about yourself …

[Andrea] Hi Liga! thank you for this interview. I am an Italian game designer, born in the mid ‘60s when boardgames were as popular as paper and pencil games, card games and several other kind of social and usually cheap games. Seventh of eleven cousins, I played a lot with them as with my schoolmates and friends.

When I started attending high school I also started playing wargames and RPGs; at the same time I entered the wonderful world of fandom. After a couple of years, I met an editor of the magazine Pergioco who was looking for people who could write about RPGs. They were still a very underground kind of games in Italy – it was 1982 and first original titles came at the end of 1983, followed by the translation of D&D even later on. So, at the age of 16 I got my first game column on a national magazine, together with my friend Gregory Alegi. Thanks mainly to that, in 1985 I became a professional journalist; the same year I published my first book and my first game. In 1988 I joined C.UnS.A., a group of Roman professional game authors: games became my full time profession, even in in Italy designing them is usually not enough to make out a living. But designing games, writing about them, making sites and exhibits about them, bringing them in schools and libraries and festivals, and so on… Well: that’s my full time job, besides still being my hobby.

I started publishing abroad in 1989, designing the game El Juego de los Animales for Sarpe (Barcelona): it has been published in the Spanish newspaperkiosks. But people outside Italy will probably know me better for a book about paper & pencil games that appeared in a few countries with different titles, Ulysses by Winning Moves Germany (designed with Pier Giorgio Paglia), Wings of War (with Pier Giorgo again) that appeared by Nexus Editrice and has been translated in 7 languages, or Obscura Tempora by Rose & Poison. You can find something more about what I do at – still under developement, but there is already some stuff.

In 1999, the Italian Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (Ministry of Education) nominated me Expert game designer.
Since games have become more a profession tha a hobby, lately, I am also looking for new pastimes: I write fantasy short stories. I also review Roman restaurants I visit inkognito for a local guidebook. Just to have something to tell about my supposed “free time” in interviews…

[Liga] Great! You have done really a lot of things! You forgot to cite “La Battaglia dei 5 eserciti” (Battle of the 5 arnies), a small wargame published inside the Kaos Magazine … I really like it! … anyway, now Cosa bolle in pentola ?

[Andrea] There are several games that are finished and are going to be released soon – arrangements are made and now it is just a matter of time, a few months or even weeks. The first one will be the card game Stardust, that Rose&poison will publish in the next months. It is a simple game about cinema scriptwriters, that will be released for the moment in Italian only and will be also used as a promotional gadget for the site Then there is Il mio business, an economic boardgame about starting new companies and entering business. It is sponsored by an organization to help youngs to start enterprises and it will probably be published by Sonda – in Italian only, again. I am also writing a gamebook guide for kids visiting a science museum in Sulmona, central Italy, with a little boardgame included, that will be printed this month.

A funny thing is that I always joked about opening a little workshop in the center with “game tailor” written above the door, so people could enter and ask for games exactly suiting their needs. This is reallt my job as far as promotional and training games are concerned… I made so many games for companies and public organizations, but now for the first time I am doing it for a private, exactly like a customer that could have entered my imaginary shop. A lady wants a unique boardgame for a newborn, so my illustrator Valeria De Caterini and me are making a game about this little kid that nobody else will ever own. A really rich gift, no doubt, that will be ready before Christmas.

Most of what’s boiling is of course related to Wings of War, my greatest success in the last years. The first three sets about WWI sold well and now we are going to release a couple of non-indipendent blisters with new planes and maneuver cards, that will also cover later conflicts up to 1922 as the Russian Civil War. The playtesters are also starting playing a version set in the second world war, that should be shaped as the next pair of boxed sets – as in the WWI collection each box will be complete and indipendent but they will be designed so you can mix them together for larger scenarios. We are also toying with other WWI stuff like heavy bombers, torpedoes, ships and the strange SPAD XII with a 37 mm cannon across the engine, a single-seat fighter that jumped and filled itself of smoke each time it was fired and then had to be reloaded taking the hands off the plane control. Hard to know what it will become of all that, but probably we will have a little and cheap PDF expansion at Arima released soon. We gave around many optional rules and stuff for free, and we’ll keep on doing that, but to have real professional stuff with an artwork from our appreciated artists the publisher will have to charge something for this item. Besides, a game author showed up with a complete prototype with a totally different setting – Pier Giorgio and me have always wanted to apply the system to other situations. Nexus is considering the idea and we hope o be able to publish that too in a year or so.

At the start of the summer Rose&Poison released my Obscura Tempora, a simple card game with a Dark Ages setting. The artwork is again by Valeria De Caterini, with which I am doing several things at the moment. It is not really aimed to core gamers (even if the Italian ones seems to like it anyway) but I designed an expansion set of 55 more cards adding strategy and depht. It should be one of the next things to hit the shelves.
The most tasty piece of meat boiling in my pot is a huge Dictionary of Games that I am writing with my friend Beniamino Sidoti for a large Italian publisher. We worked on that for quite a lot of time and in my opinion we have now a quite intriguing reference book about any kind of games, interesting to read and full of ideas to play with. Text is almost done – then we will have a few months of refining, illustrations and such. I hope it will be printed after next summer.

In the meantime, another couple of books should be released. My friend and co-author Luca Giuliano is a university professor and started a specialization course about “strategies in hypertextual narrative”: I took part with a lecture and now I am writing a chapter for his textbook, about choose-your-own-story gamebooks.

Besides, I am a bit sad that my book about paper&pencil games is now available in English-speaking nations, in Czech Republic, in Korea… but not in Italy. So I am making a children version for our local market, that will be published by Editoriale Scienza in spring in the same collection where I just made a book about card games explained to kids.

There is a card game of mine about archaeology that daVinci Games decided to publish. They are checking which of their foreign partners to see which ones are interested and they already had some positive answers from different continents. The artwork and layout are also in progress and a public organization offered pictures of real archaeological sites and items to be depicted on the cards. But I don’t know the real timing of this one.

During the Lucca Games show last october it has been released a new edition of I Cavalieri del Tempio, a historical role-playing game that I wrote with foiur co-authors and that was pretty popular in Italy in early ‘90s. Players are Templar knights travelling in space and time to pursue a Secret Plan that they do not really know in detail – the players don’t, the game master don’t and even us authors don’t. But it does not matter, Templars go on anway. Beside demonstrating the game, we are also collecting old and new adventures and rules: the project is to release a supplement every six months. New players started again developing and proposing game materials, as they did 15 years ago, so we are not alone in this job… The first supplement will be set in the 14th Century, the period in which the organization starts.

A national monthly magazine is preparing a twin publication with games and puzzles. The launch will be in January in every Italian newspaperkiosk and they asked me to contribute. For the first issue I just did a little game about old traditional games: nothing special, but I am glad they went looking for me.
Last thing is an activity of game agents I started with my colleague Elena Fyrogeni. We do it just for a very few prototypes we are very convinced of. It could be a good way to help new authors to start their career. It seems that we have some results, but let’s speak again of it later… Maybe you’ll soon have a brand new Italian author to interview!

[Liga] … if all the interviewed was so generous about theyr project I cannot call my interview “short” anymore … anyway, projects for the future ?

[Andrea] As you see, I like to work together with old and new co-authors. At the moment I have several prototypes around, none of them exclusively mine: a couple designed with Elena Fyrogeni, a couple with Pier Giorgio Paglia, one with Paolo Corsini, one with Pier Giorgio and a pair of very famous international authors. Publishers are considering them, let’s see what happens.

In the meantime, I am toying with other ideas. I even have publishers that saw very rough stuff at my flat and they are urging me and my co-authors to polish them into final products… But “never put too much meat on the fire”, I’d say since you love cooking methaphors, so I will not work on more stuff until most of the “boiling in the pot” projects are finally released.

Besides, when my friend Giorgia “Noctua” Pandolfo made my personal site earlier this year I did a little database of games and books I am author of, or to whom I contributed somehow. For the moment I counted about 100 items, leaving out a lot of minor things appeared on magazines, fanzines and the like that could easily develope into new boxed games or booklets. Most of all my things appeared just in one language (usually Italian) and several of them are actually out of production. One of my project is to try to give new life to something of all that, reprinting old games or finding new translations for local ones.

With Pier Giorgio, for example, we have a new version of “Ulysses” that is simpler and with less randomness. We did not relly like 100% the editing done for the published editon, even if it sold enough for our standards and expectations: that’s why we decided to let the contract expire and take the rights back. We worked again on that game and we think that the new version we have now is quite better. We got positive feedback from more than one publisher in different countries, let’s see if it will work.

I’d also like to reprint “Mediterraneo”, a RPG about Greek myth. It has been around since 1992 in Italy as a very agile booklet; I was almost ready to to release a little American edition, but maybe an Italian publisher will make a revised and enlarged version instead, both in Italian and English.
And then again there is the activity of supporting and expanding existig games. In April I released “The Storymixer” (by Edizioni Lapis), a choose-your-own-adventure game for children that can’t read yet, similar to gamebooks in purpse but designed as a tile game. Drawings are by Valeria. The first episode, “Osvaldo and the Hunters”, sold quite well in Italy and since it’s very easy to translate (you just have to change the text on the box…) I hope that contacts abroad will bring to something in other countries. It is a story about a little hare whose wood is invaded by hunters. I would like to make new stories with the same system and main character, so that kids can mix all the them together if they want and get richer and longer stories. I think that this will be discussed after we see the final sale reports of the starting title at the end of the year…

[Liga] thank you Andrea for your time! My last question, just to know which kind of gamer you are. The 10 games you like to play most

[Andrea] Difficult question. First of all, I always like to try new games. I could never choose a game for a lifetime marriage… like chess and bridge, whose real players practicse them only and no other game. I prefer to try new titles every time. Not with the Casanova aptitude – try them all once for your collection of experiencxes – but more as Don Giovanni: try as many of them as you can, and love them all.

And I actually have to play new games often, to be updated. I try the new releases as a part of my profession of game designer and journalist. Moreover I play a lot of games for playtesting, or to demo my own little creatures in shops and shows… So in the end I do not have so much time to play the same games so much. But of course there are games I like a lot to play, even if years can be passed since the last time I played them.

I like easy games for many people like Formula Dé, Taboo and Lupus in Tabula. You can call the latter as you want, Werewolves or watever, but I actually play exactly the version that daVinci Games put on the market.
I like traditional card games, above all the Geonan Cirulla that’s a great mix of luck and calulation. Some of my easier card games try to get almost the same feeling.

I like word and letters games as Bücken’s Word Whiz, but also classics like Boggle and new ones like Obert’s Word Jam and Peres’ Verba Volant. I also like paper and pencil games a lot, with letters or not: very simple as far as rules are concerned, but very effective in terms of strategy and fun.

A game I like a lot to play is the traditional crown corks race, where everybody runs a crown bottlecork on a path drawn by chalk on the street or built in cardboard and other materials. It’s the brother of marble races we played on the beach whn we were kids and it is also the direct father of recent boxed games as Carabande and Pitch Car. I learned to build race courses with cardboard boxes collected outside of supermarket, spare cloth and so on at Mucca Games, a very entertaining game convention in northern Latium. I have ben invited to organize those races in festivals, schools, libraries, team building meetings for managers. I also teached how to do that to librarians and teachers… Fun and useful, in times when kids are more easily attracted by expensive and not so socializing computers and game consolles.

I like to play a SPI old simulation boardgame, usually the most steamlined ones like let’s say Napoleon at War. I still buy new ones on eBay for my collection, even if I know that I already have too many of them for my playing needs. Opening one of those after nearly 30 years from its release is a bit like opening a well aged bottle of red wine: sometimes it tastes of cork, it seldom leaves you a headcache the next morning and it is usually far more exciting than many soda drinks made today. I say it even if I am a soda drink brewer by profession myself.

I also keep on playing air combat simulation: a game of Ace of Aces every now and then, and also of Blue Max: the latter expecially thanks to the Web version at youplay that helps a lot in those frantic and busy days. Even if I have to play Wings of War as a duty for demos and playtesting, I nevertheless like it too. Our great playtester Dave managed to arrange a way to play it by email game – quite incredilbe for such a game!. He has done a beautiful little private site with the result of the moves, just for the fun of us.

Lack of time prevents me to play all the nephews of Risk! like War of the Ring, that I had the chance to play just a few times, and all the Axis and Allies collecton that I used to play quite often in the last millenium. Too bad! But I still like that rare experience anyway, when I have the chance.
There are games I admire more than those, as there are games that I love more to have in my collection: like Berg’s Campaign for North Africa, that I played just once as the shortest scenario and I’ll probably never play again in my life, but that I struggled anyway to get in a Internet auction. There are better games for sure, in my humble opinion, if you ask me that. But these and their kin are probably the ten games I really like more to play.

[Liga]: Thank you again Andrea for your time and see you somewhere in some convention (in Italy outside!) … good play!

The next week I’ll go to interview Emiliano “Bang” Sciarra

© 2005 Andrea Liga Ligabue

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