Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack - years of casual reading

Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack has given me years of enjoyment. Even to the point where I've had to get a spare copy. Oh, but not to play but as bathroom reading :D

Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack may be the ultimate expression of Cheapass Game's game philosophy. Cheapass's argument is that you already have dice and cards and chips and pawns so they don't need to package them. They just gave you the bare minimum to play their games, often just rules and the boards. (These days, they seem to be more focused on Kickstarter, btw)

This philosophy resulted in a bunch of half-baked, cheaply produced (but cheaply sold) games for a good ten years in their original incarnation, which isn't bad. I bought a good chunk of those games and they have survived numerous purges. Partially because they're small but also because they are wonky and some are honestly good games.

Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack was a booklet with the rules for twenty-four games and six poker variants, plus a couple of game boards. Many of the games had been previously published as ads in convention flyers and such.

Let's be honest. While Cheapass and James Ernest has put out some surprisingly good games, particularly given their rush-it-out-the-door philosophy, this is not a highlights reel. In fact, it might qualify as scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Despite that fact, it has paid for itself over and over again for me in sheer entertainment value, as well as intellectual curiosity.

Published in 2000, Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack is an interesting snapshot of Cheapass's early years. It includes  lot of their early freebies, as well as a board game that have been slated as a standalone publication. 

Pennywise, Spots and Flip, all variations of the same game for coins, cards or dice, had their ruleset included in card game collection Change, as well as being refined for the online version of Pennywise. Hey Bartender was also part of Change. Dogfight is the prototype for Diceland, as well as helped in the development of Buttonmen, which is a brilliant game.

And, if you are like me and have an interest in game mechanics and design, Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack is a fun read. They are all bare bones designs and some of them were clearly actually prototypes of later games still being worked on. Plus, the snarky, egotistical comments by the fictional Chief Herman are funny.

I might even reach for the collection if I ever need to host a youth group or other kiddy gathering. It would definitely offer some different activities for that.

Chief Herman's Holiday Fun Pack isn't a brilliant collection of games. Frankly, I've only ended up playing a couple of them. However, it has been one entertaining read.

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