Atlas Games


Atlas Games

Noting a 50th Anniversary, and Credit Where Due

Feb 27 2017
This year is a big Happy Birthday to Gen Con, which celebrates its 50th year! A decade ago we were proud to help celebrate an earlier milestone by publishing 40 Years of Gen Con, a big full-color coffee table book of the convention's history up to then. Written by Robin D. Laws, it includes a gazillion photographs from years gone by, interviews with many game industry luminaries (some of whom are sadly not here to join Gen Con 50), and more.

For a limited time, you have the chance to pick up 40 Years of Gen Con at a bargain price, thanks to a re-run of the "Designers, Dragons & More" Bundle of Holding -- a value bundle that will load you up with game industry history and the stories of some of the best games in our field.

I also want to add a note of acknowledgement and apology. Long after the book was published, it came to our attention that attribution for three photographs by Scott Griffin had been bungled. The digital version of the book is corrected, but in case you have the first printing, know that Scott is the photographer of "Ed Greenwood as Elminster", "Musicians entertaining at Gen Con, and "Gary Gygax in the "Klingon Jail 'n Bail". We thank Scott for his contribution and apologize for this error. Also, if you love game history, you should check out Scott's website, Gen Con in Wisconsin (1968-2002)!

Really Regrettable Robots

Feb 21 2017
Although we've had robots — machines programmable to perform human-like functions — since 400 BCE, we only got the word robot in 1920, thanks to a Czech playwright. It's taken a long time for actual robot technology to even approach the potential imagined in the stories we've been telling about robots from this planet and others.

Translating these creations to stage and screen have yielded some truly regrettable robots, some of which are beyond even the reach of Gloom in Space to describe. Let's run down the top five saddest robots from movies and TV.

1)  Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 from Robot Monster: This robot, like many, is just a guy in a suit. That suit, though, wasn't made of metal hardware. Instead, Ro-Man wears a gorilla suit and a Sputnik-like astronaut costume helmet. He's bent on wiping out the last eight members of the human race. He doesn't succeed.

2)  Daleks from Doctor Who: These robots are the scariest foes for the Doctor, but it's hard for viewers to understand the terror they inspire when a Dalek is an upside-down trashcan on wheels, with egg beaters and a toilet plunger as weapons. All the earliest Doctors needed to do to foil these villains was to go up a flight of stairs.

3)  Nomad from Star Trek: The Original Series: A junkyard is a set designer's best friend, and Nomad looks like it was assembled straight from the trash heap. With a head like a coffee percolator and a body like a mesh office wastebasket, it's hardly a worthy adversary for Captain Kirk. Indeed, Kirk shuts down this mechanical menace by convincing it to commit suicide.

4)  Power Droid from Star Wars: This sad excuse for a robot was especially pathetic next to shiny, elaborate droids like C3P0 and R2-D2. Borrowing from the well-established tradition of trashcans as costumes, the Power Droid is just a box around a child or little person. Some flexible plastic ductwork gives them leg warmers to go with flat metal boxes for shoes. And still they managed to make two action figures out of this guy.

5)  Box from Logan's Run: As shiny as this robot is, all that chrome isn't enough to distract viewers from its janky design. The actor's head is wrapped in something like a reflective space blanket, with a slot cut for the mouth. The body looks like a shiny rooftop industrial air conditioner. While it has metal ductwork to cover the arms, it looks as though the actor is holding sticks with heavy, boxy guns on the ends, leaving them to flop around randomly.

Unknown Armies Deluxe Set Photos

Feb 13 2017
One of the best things about publishing is seeing all of the hard work of designers, writers, editors, artists, graphic engineers, and printers come together in the form of an actual physical product. Regent of China shipped us a single copy of the Unknown Armies 3 Deluxe Set to review before full scale production and shipment happens, and we took a few photos.

This is the exterior of the Deluxe Set with slipcase, shrinkwrapped, and all three volumes included in hardback.

The slipcase unfolds to become a landscape oriented game master screen, with all the charts and tables you need during play. It turns back into a slipcase with ease (and a magnetic clasp).

Players can enjoy the gorgeous cover artwork of Jason Engle and Aaron Acevedo. Incidentally, when you take all three books and line them up in a triangle, the art forms a triptych image!

Finally, the books themselves are high quality, sturdy, and gorgeous full-bleed photo-illustrated casebound volumes. Thanks to the layout skills of Thomas Deeny, the table of contents, chapter splash pages, and trade dress all works together.

We can't wait for the thousands of Kickstarter backers to get their own print copies in April. Retail stores should see orders filled at the end of April and early May. If you can't wait, and you didn't back the books last year, our pre-orders are still open!

Hounded Learn-to-Play Video

Feb 3 2017
Hounded came out in December. It's a two-player game that pits a cunning Fox against a veteran Master of Hounds. The Fox player must evade capture; the Master of Hounds must lead his pack to catch the Fox before the sun goes down.

We made a learn-to-play video that'll bring you up to speed on how to play Hounded in no time. You can stream it below, watch it on YouTube, see it on the Hounded product page, or even download the HD video file (600 MB) to watch later.

The Sound of the Unknown Part 3: Creating the Music

Dec 30 2016
To celebrate the release of our three suites of Musick for Unknown Armies, composer James Semple wrote three blog posts about commissioning, collaborating on, and creating music for roleplaying games. This is the third post in the series.

Often when starting a new project I will try and define my palette, the range of instruments and sounds that will be used for the music. Sometimes this will be definitive but often it will just be the core sounds. With Unknown Armies I didn’t really do this. Instead, I defined the kind of sounds I’d gravitate towards but I’d begin my template afresh on each track. This definitely ended up being more work but I feel that it kept the tracks sounding more original and unique.

There are a whole lot of influences on the Unknown Armies music but it never really sits comfortably in a single, definable genre. For instance there are orchestral and choral sounds in there, but they're usually mixed with synthesizers or strange abstract noises, and often contemporary drums or bass. Even the alternative rock tracks include soundscape elements and unusual production tricks.

Most of the music was realised within a computer and honestly I used an enormous number of different virtual instruments to create the three suites. I also used a fair amount of live guitar, sometimes overtly and often as an effect in the background. I played acoustic, clean electric, distorted electric, slide guitar, reversed guitar — pretty much anything I could think of, really. It all went in there. I also used the wonderful cellist Deryn Cullen on the track "Lament for the Incorrectly Processed." The cello was so exposed and sensitive that I knew I needed a live player and her sublime performance truly lifted that track.

One reason I love working on RPG music is the chance to help define a genre and put a stamp on an original setting. The setting here was so original that I had a massive amount of freedom to come up with something new and I’d like to think that now Unknown Armies has its own musical identity.

If you haven't already, check out The Sound of the Unknown Part 1: Commissioning Music and The Sound of the Unknown Part 2: The Collaboration Process, the first and second posts in this series.

Rejected Schools of Magick in Unknown Armies

Dec 28 2016
Of all the elements that make Unknown Armies stand out from other roleplaying games, it's probably its strange, postmodern take on magick. Imaginative, engaging, even hilarious schools of magick make kewl powerz that are actually cool. There are dozens of fan-created schools, each of them a singular vision of a certain type of character who has the specific obsession that gives rise to their magick.

This got us thinking: Is there anything that can't be a compelling Unknown Armies school of magick? We gave it our best shot to come up with schools too goofy, too weird, or too dull to be interesting. But actively trying not to be awesome was harder than it seemed! Did we succeed at failing, or do these still sound like interesting schools of magick?

Pagotomancy—The magick of ice cream. Minor charges involve creating new flavors of sweet, cold confections. Of course, the blast involves really bad brain freeze. Like, actual, literal freezing of brains. A secret war rages between the Gelati and the Soft Serve.

Esorouchurgy—The magick of underwear. Acquiring the underwear of the famous and powerful could be a source of charges, but so can acquiring the underwear worn at historic events like Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Spells include things like "Down on Skid Row," "Four Days Good," and "Hyperwedgie." But would esourochurges be required to go commando themselves?

Videofelimancy—The magick of cat videos. Their hypnotic quality and unfailing ability to improve people's moods must surely come from a form of magick. For a significant charge, track down the original video file of the first Internet cat video. The annual cult meeting takes place in Saint Paul, Minnesota at the International CatVidFest.

Ozomancy—The magic of terrible smells. Naturally, high schools are great places to acquire minor charges, from the concentrated stink of a locker room to the weaponized scent of cheap body spray. The paradox is, of course, that the ozomancer must be meticulously clean and devoid of any scent whatsoever. If they acquire any of the scents they work with, good or bad, they must immediately clean up to avoid the taboo.

What can you come up with? Remember, the Statosphere is coming. Unknown Armies 3rd Edition has and always will thrive on the creativity of its audience.

The Sound of the Unknown Part 2: The Collaboration Process

Dec 21 2016
To celebrate the release of our three suites of Musick for Unknown Armies, composer James Semple wrote three blog posts about commissioning, collaborating on, and creating music for roleplaying games. This is the second post in the series.

One issue that you may have as a games designer when commissioning music is how to tell the composer exactly what you want. Unless you are also a musician, you may find it difficult to definitively describe your vision. So many words mean different things to different people. For some, "epic" means a grandiose piece that tells a story. To others it means really loud drums.

There are many ways to get around this problem. Reference tracks are a useful way of explaining what you like. Also, conversations with the composer can help really narrow down what you like about the reference tracks you've chosen. For Unknown Armies, we started with conversations about the kinds of feelings the music should evoke and from these discussions surfaced a manifesto where we defined terms that we felt applied to the music. While these terms can never be perfect, they did give a baseline theme to keep me on track while writing the music. Each piece of music was of course signed off by the creative team at Atlas Games.

One of the great aspects of this project for me was how much freedom I was given to experiment and explore when writing the music. I could spend time searching for new unusual sounds or work with challenging harmonic ideas without the sense of being limited by existing genre expectations. Unknown Armies is a very original game and that gave me the room to write some of my most original and personal music to date.

If you haven't already, check out the first and third posts in this series, The Sound of the Unknown Part 1: Commissioning Music and The Sound of the Unknown Part 3: Creating the Music.

Americana and Unknown Armies

Dec 19 2016
It's been said that Unknown Armies is distinctly American in its outlook. Perhaps some will find Third Edition less so—not because the approach to its cosmology is so different, but because the lens with which we view 2016 is so different than the one through which Unknown Armies designer John Tynes saw the world in 1996. With every passing day, the borders among global powers become blurrier, and Unknown Armies has always thrived on fuzzy logic. Mak Attax is an international phenomenon, after all.

Unknown Armies finds a lot of both love and fear about the American landscape. And why not? Our characters in other games have been to the scary old house in England, the moldering castle in the Carpathians, or the ancient ruins in the Yucatan. In the context of roleplaying games, we think of distance as equivalent to exoticism, but the mundane and familiar where we live is less explored. What about the burger joint we all known and love, or the back of our local post office? Unknown Armies plays upon the past, but it's the recent past of abandoned Blockbusters and Radio Shacks. It finds ample fuel in the tabloids, the strip malls, the pawn shops, and throughout the rotting carcass of the Midwestern Rust Belt. That gothic church over there might be creepy, but more so than the truck stop off I-94?

Unknown Armies' seediness owes much to film noir and the writings of folks like James Ellroy. But these aren't unique to America. Noir films in general, while an American genre, were deeply influenced by German Expressionism and the sensibilities of displaced European filmmakers emigrating to the US during or after World War II. These artists' profound ambivalence about the human condition contrasted starkly with the traditional Hollywood "happy ending." For example, designer Greg Stolze cites the more recent Spanish film Intacto as a near-perfect Unknown Armies story.

There's a grottiness to Unknown Armies, like an old VHS copy of Basket Case that's been viewed ten too many times. But you can find manifestations of that aesthetic all around the world, both in native forms and as an American export.

The Sound of the Unknown Part 1: Commissioning Music

Dec 14 2016
To celebrate the release of our three suites of Musick for Unknown Armies, composer James Semple wrote three blog posts about commissioning, collaborating on, and creating music for roleplaying games. This is the first post in the series.

Having recently completed 45 minutes of music for the Unknown Armies suites, I thought it was worth taking a moment to reflect on why a game creator might want to commission music for their RPG or board game.

I’ll be honest and say I think there’s a sense of prestige associated with your game having its own musical theme, but also, it’s useful from the point of view of brand awareness. You now have identifiable music you can play for promotional videos or at live events. It can help to reinforce the mood of the game by calling on evocative musical touchstones that subliminally (or even explicitly) suggest eras, regions, or genres.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider how you'll use the music when you commission it. Is it simply for listening pleasure or inspiration? Do you have a specific utility in mind? While it’s exciting to define short catchy themes for elements of your game, usually the most useful type of music for players is long and ambient. Music that sets a mood but isn’t interesting enough to distract from the session in play. Often this is little more than long drones and abstract sounds but it can use melodic ideas as well. While this is very useful during games it can get a little dull as a listening experience in itself and doesn’t really "sell" the music. In the long run I usually find I’m asked for a mix of themes and ambient music perhaps with some other elements such as short three- to five-second "stings," or maybe loopable action music.

In the end it all comes down to a good working relationship with the composer, setting out your goals and together creating something unique and inspiring for your game. With Unknown Armies I had the distinct pleasure of working with very original source material and some amazing creative people who helped me discover their sound. I think together we’ve come up with something quite unique that I called Americanoir. I hope it does justice to their vision.

If you haven't already, check out the second and third posts in this series, The Sound of the Unknown Part 2: The Collaboration Process and The Sound of the Unknown Part 3: Creating the Music.

Unknown Armies: A Little History

Dec 13 2016
In 1996, John Tynes came up with an idea he called "The New Inquisition." It was a new agey, humanocentric urban fantasy about folks entangled in a postmodern occult underground. Originally the background for a series of short stories he was writing, it then became a proposal for a limited-run comic series that never materialized (but which you can read about here).

In 1997, Tynes still hadn't shaken the concept. Knowing that John Nephew, patriarch of Atlas Games, was looking for a new roleplaying game to publish, Tynes approached Greg Stolze about co-authoring a game based on "The New Inquisition," which became Unknown Armies.

In 1998, Unknown Armies 1st Edition was a provocative, grindhouse version of Call of Cthulhu, with its dingy murder-victim-on-a-card-table cover, madness meters, and magick based on the worst of human urges. But it was more than that. While other urban fantasy and horror roleplaying games were busy trivializing humanity—from both the perspectives of the humans (Call of Cthulhu) and the monsters (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, etc.)—Unknown Armies posited something different: that humans were the only thing that mattered. In the words of co-designer Greg Stolze, " matter too much."

Unknown Armies made a profound impact on the roleplaying landscape, but Tynes and Stolze had only scratched the surface of their modern occult mythology. Over the next couple years, a half dozen sourcebooks like Statosphere and Postmodern Magick appeared. In 2002, Unknown Armies 2nd Edition debuted as a revised and expanded update. It was followed by one sourcebook, Break Today, and the epic campaign adventure To Go, but after that slipped away...not quite into obscurity, but a quiet hiatus.

Now it's 2016, and Unknown Armies is back. The breathtaking Third Edition is a three-volume set that reveals the purpose of its sabbatical. Designer Greg Stolze has synthesized more than a decade of RPG evolution to create a new game that is exactly what you remember and not at all what you expect. The psyche of the player characters is the primary focus without taking away any of the game master's ability to shock or surprise. The setting is reimagined to reflect a 21st century that's already taking shape.

Unknown Armies 3rd Edition will be available soon in a pristine Digital Edition that includes PDF, ePub, and MOBI versions of all three rulebooks. Preorder them now at BackerKit and have them the moment they're released! Or you can preorder the deluxe hardcover volumes, expected to be available in the spring of 2017.

Unknown Armies 3 Custom Dice - Limited Availability

Nov 30 2016
While the Unknown Armies 3 books are just going to press (and on track for the April 2017 release date target), the custom dice have arrived in our warehouse and been packaged for shipping to all of the backers who ordered them. After today's mail pick-up, the only ones that remain to send are exceptions where either there was an address verification error that we need to correct, or the backer hasn't yet filled out their BackerKit survey.

We did manufacture extra dice. The high manufacturing cost and lack of retail packaging mean it's not viable for us to sell these through the usual distribution channels to local stores. However, while supplies last, we will sell them direct by mail, at conventions, etc. The price per set of dice is $10, with shipping cost of $3 (US), $9.50 (Canada) or $13.50 (anywhere else).

We've set up this button to take orders directly through PayPal:

UA3 Dice Set (6 dice) - Select Destination

If you're looking for a unique Christmas gift for the gamer in your life, don't miss the chance to grab a set of these while supplies last!

Designer’s Notebook: The Story of Hounded

Nov 16 2016
Perhaps the hounds would have seemed rather a mixed pack to a master of hounds today. There were half a dozen black and white alaunts, which looked like greyhounds with the heads of bull-terriers or worse. These, which were the proper hounds for boars, wore muzzles because of their ferocity. The gaze-hounds, of which there were two taken just in case, were in reality nothing but greyhounds according to modern language, while the lymers were a sort of mixture between the bloodhound and the red setter of today. The latter had collars on, and were led with straps. The braches were like beagles, and trotted along with the master in the way that beagles always have trotted, and a charming way it is.

– T.H. White, The Once and Future King
Clint Bohaty has been thinking about Hounded for a long time. This two-player game of cat-and-mouse (or, rather, fox and hounds) was a dream project for its designer, and as he reveals below, close calls, sweaty palms, and racing hearts were always part of the plan.
Hounded was inspired by a short and beautifully written chapter on boar hunting found within T.H. White's The Once and Future King. In chapter sixteen of the book, Wart (a young King Arthur) along with Merlin and King Pellinore, join Sir Ector and his Master of Hounds on a deadly boar hunt.

White goes into great detail on the hunt's preparations, giving insight into how the Master of Hound's builds out a proper pack of hunting dogs. I'd always known that many beloved dog breeds were originally brought up for hunting – but I'd never given much thought as to how the hunt actually went. As I learned, each dog is bred and selected for a specific function, and many times multiple breeds must work together to successfully capture their prey.
Culhwch at King Arthur's court (Public Domain)
Much like drafting players to build a winning sports team, the Master of Hounds must draft a pack of dogs to win the hunt. Bay dogs, like the foxhound, were bred with loud booming voices to scare and corner prey, while catch dogs, like the american bulldog, were bred with powerful jaws to grab and hold down large prey.
During The Once and Future King, I found myself wanting to be a part of that hunt, stepping side-by-side through the thickets with Wart, with our boar-spears held high and our senses acute. The experience of a hunt with hounds was something I suddenly wanted to be a part of, and crafting a board game around the experience was one way I knew I could live it!
You can join the hunt today with Hounded, available at better game stores everywhere. Or, for more information, check out our Hounded product page!

And if you’ve never had the pleasure, T.H. White’s The Once And Future King is a must. You can find it pretty much everywhere else that great books are sold!
Master Twyti put his horn to his lips. The alaunts were uncoupled as the exciting notes of the menee began to ring through the forest, and then the whole scene began to move. The lymers which had reared the boar—the proper word for dislodging—were allowed to pursue him to make them keen on their work. The braches gave musical tongue. The alaunts galloped baying through the drifts. Everybody began to shout and run.

– T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Unleash The Hounds!

Nov 4 2016

You’re the Fox. It’s dawn and you’ve just woken from a sleep. You stretch indolently, already thinking about breakfast. Maybe some nice quail eggs. Then you smell it, the distinct odor of man on the breeze, followed by the sound of several dogs tramping and barking through the underbrush. The hunter is in your woods, and his dogs are on your trail! So much for breakfast…

You’re the Master of the Hounds. The dogs are excited; they’ve got the fox’s scent. That was quick, really – the day is still the deep blue of early dawn. This part of the forest is unexplored, but that’s okay, you’ve done this a thousand times before. The dogs will give chase, closing off his escape routes, hemming their quarry in until there’s nowhere left to run. Then you will have won. This should be easy…

Deceptively simple and exceptionally deep, Hounded is a game of bluffing, trickery, escape, and entrapment for two players. Game play is asymmetrical. One player is the Fox – clever, quick, and at home in the woods. The other is the Master of Hounds – an experienced hunter commanding a pack of dogs with varied talents of their own. Your field of play is an unexplored stretch of woods made up of 49 tiles; as you make your way through it, the terrain will help and hinder you. 

Hounded is perfect at home, a restaurant, the airport, a hotel room, or just about anywhere. Its small social footprint means big fun any time you and a friend feel the need to pit your cunning against each other. And endless replayability means every game is a new challenge.

Check out the Hounded product page for more info, including downloadable PDFs of the rules and reference sheets. And get your copy of Hounded today!

Once Upon A Time: Telling The Stories You Want

Oct 31 2016

My favorite fairy tales may be the Russian ones. I have a couple books of Russian fairy tales and folklore lying around that I turn to on cold winter nights. Many of the stories are decidedly grim affairs, as you might expect. And who hasn’t at least heard of Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut? But probably my favorite Russian fairy tale is “Tsarevich Ivan, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf.”

Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf by Viktor Vasnetsov

In it, Prince Ivan encounters the Wolf, who promptly eats Ivan's horse. To pay back his debt to Ivan, Wolf agrees to serve as his mount, and they go on adventures. They meet the Firebird, save a princess, and run afoul of Ivan’s brothers, who betray and murder him. The Wolf himself turns out to be magical; he proves his friendship by resurrecting Ivan and helping him exact revenge upon his siblings. It’s lovely and grim, and struck me as a particularly fun mashup of a buddy cop/road trip story. I liked Ivan and Wolf so much I wrote a short roleplaying game about the pair, and later made a short puppet film as well.

Bringing fantasy Russia to life on a tiny scale!

Of course, my version was different. I genderswapped Ivan for Ivanna (but kept her just as reckless and adventurous). And I added frost trolls and a Winter King – a kind of Unseelie fairy lord who wants nothing more than to encase the world in ice. In her first adventure, Ivanna and Wolf are at odds over the death of her horse, but eventually make amends when both come under the spell of an evil shapeshifting witch living in an old, monstrous tree. Later adventures were to feature Ivanna meeting up with an evil sibling who does, indeed, kill her...forcing Wolf to work with the witch’s former familiar – an irksome raven – to find a cure in the headwaters of the River of Life. I still want to tell that story! And others!

Once Upon A Time lets me tell them. As much as we’d like to, my friends and I can’t necessarily commit to six months or more of production on a film, even a short one, every time we want to spin one of these yarns. But we can get together every couple weeks for a game night. Take the core Once Upon a Time rules, mix in some cards from Enchanting Tales, Knightly Tales, and Animal Tales, along with the brand new Fairy Tales expansion, house rule that all stories are going to feature our favorite mismatched duo of Princess and Wolf, and we’re good to go. Someday, maybe, she and Wolf will actually come face-to-face with the Winter King, and she’ll finally have a chance to rescue her family, whose hearts have been frozen against her. But we’re in no hurry. Each new expansion gives us new stories to tell, and it’s the stories that count.

Fairy Tales is available now wherever you can buy Once Upon A Time.

Putting the Fairies in Fairy Tales

Oct 12 2016
Up and down, up and down
I will lead them up and down
I am feared in field in town
Goblin, lead them up and down
― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Good news! Fairy Tales, the newest expansion for Once Upon A Time, is on game store shelves today!

But wait, hasn’t Once Upon A Time always been about fairy tales?

Well, yes. And no.

Once Upon A Time hails from, and continues, a tradition of oral storytelling, preserved in literature through the likes of Hans Christian Anderson. It features princes and princesses, magic and giants, and – yes – fairies. These were the stories derived from old folklore, sometimes called “wonder tales” (Wundermärchen, in German), but more often referred to as fairy tales by modern audiences...despite the fact that the fairies themselves might never make an appearance.

So yes, Once Upon A Time has always been about fairy tales. In the sense that it makes stories in the mold of what we think of as fairy tales. And expansions like Enchanting Tales and Animal Tales have expanded upon the motifs common to the Wundermärchen with magic and talking animals and all the things that make wonder tales wondrous. But the fairies themselves – those winsome, tempestuous purveyors of mischief cavorting beneath the moonlight on Midsummer’s Night – weren’t themselves often the focus of those stories. They kept to the shadows, you might say.

Fairy Tales invites them out to play in the sunlight. Pay a visit to a Fairy Circle where Pixies Bargain with Babies for Toys. Or hear the sad soliloquy of a Goblin who Never Grows Old Tangled in the Eldest Spider’s Web. Andrew Rilstone returns to the game he helped create to bring the fairy world into focus, while artist Omar Rayyan once again breathes life into this, the newest of expansions for the classic Once Upon A Time. There’s no more perfect addition to your game collection than Fairy Tales!

And if you want to learn more about the history of fairy tales, this article at is a great place to start!

The Penumbra+2 Bundle of Holding

Oct 10 2016

Seven Civilizations Cover ImageThe Open Game License for the World’s Most Popular Role Playing Game changed the way the industry worked, and Atlas Games was there from the very beginning. Our classic adventure Three Days to Kill was the very first OGL release, and it established the tone for our entire line of D20 products — the Penumbra line. The mission was simple: Give game masters and players content they could use right away, in whatever way worked best for their campaigns, with great art, great writing from some of the best authors in the business, and a ton of imagination. We’re proud to say that Penumbra continues to do that as well today as it did when it first arrived.

Which is why the new Penumbra+2 Bundle of Holding is such an amazing opportunity. A sequel to the successful Penumbra Bundle from last may, Penumbra+2 features ten classic sourcebooks perfect for any Pathfinder or other D20 game. New magic, monsters, and adventures are just some of what the Penumbra+2 Bundle of Holding is holding for you.

For $5.95, you get the four core books of the Penumbra Starter Collection:
Sacred Ground Cover Image
Level up for the threshold price (currently $15.50) and get six additional sourcebooks in the Penumbra Bonus Collection!
  • Occult Lore (retail $18): Rules for ten new magical traditions — alchemy, geomancy, spirit cultivation, rational magic, and many more.
  • Seven Civilizations (retail $10): Compelling new cultures designed to blend seamlessly into your campaign world.
  • Seven Serpents (retail $10): Strange, peculiar, and exceptional dragons to challenge, mystify, or support your characters.
  • Love and War (retail $15): Knighthood and chivalry as practiced in history and fantasy. Written by David Chart (Ars Magica Fifth Edition).
  • Sacred Ground II (retail $10): Four more sanctuaries and holy sites — Hai Shen Gong, Creche Hospice, the Oracle, and Earthblood Grove.
  • Splintered Peace (retail $10: David Chart’s unusual campaign adventure of a nonviolent battle to save a city from itself.
Together these ten PDFs retail for $113. They’re available here for the first time as part of this special Bundle of Holding, and the best part is that 10% of total purchases (after payment gateway fees) goes to Doctors Without Borders. As with all Bundles of Holding, though, this offer has an expiration date. If you play any version of the World’s Most Popular Role Playing Game, there’s something here for you, but only if you act by October 16!

Gloom Tomb from Broken Token Now Available!

Oct 7 2016
In the 19th century, glass-lid coffins weree en vogue for celebrities and people of status. It was the obvious solution to the problem of mourners illicitly making off with little souvenirs of the deceased – bits of cloth or hair – as they lay in state.

The folks at Broken Token, purveyors of fine game storage devices of all kinds, felt that Gloom deserved the celebrity treatment, and we agreed. To wit, they’ve created the Gloom Tomb. The Gloom Tomb is a finely crafted wooden sarcophagus and features Broken Token’s first ever see-through acrylic lid. The Gloom logo is engraved on every face, a suitable memento mori for your favorite game of unhappy people, and there’s ample room for every Gloom card published to date, with plots reserved for future expansions.

They say that out of sight is out of mind. With the Gloom Tomb, that’s no longer a problem. Now you can proudly display your Gloom collection between games and remember all the bad times you had together. It’s the perfect postmortem to any Gloom aficionado’s collection.


Need To Know: Feng Shui 2 Factions

Oct 4 2016
In Feng Shui 2, control of Chi power and Feng Shui sites drives conflict across space and time. Factions seek to dominate access to magic and the Netherworld to pursue their own agendas. For some Factions, their motives are easy to understand. The evil wizards of the Eaters of the Lotus, those wuxia masters who dance across the treetops and shoot lightning from their hands, want infinite power for their nefarious plans. The monks of the Guiding Hand, however, want to impose their moral order for the betterment of society, even if it costs people their freedom.

Some Factions are driven by the need to change history after their own actions proved too damaging. Both the Jammers and the New Simian Army seek to control power of other points in time to correct the devastation they caused in the future by dropping the Chi Bomb, though they're not too careful about the other eras where they go for that power.

Only one Faction has been wiped out completely, but that's where the players come in. Those Maverick Cops, Bodyguards, Everyday Heroes, and Gamblers are the new Dragons, and it's up to them to stop the other Factions before they destroy all of time and space. In the quickstart adventure Hong Kong Task Force 88, now available in PDF format, your team of Dragons fights the Guiding Hand as they distribute drugs on the streets of Hong Kong.

Learn more about all the Factions in Feng Shui 2 from designer Robin D. Laws!

Need To Know: Feng Shui 2 Junctures

Sep 28 2016
The First Edition of Feng Shui introduced the concept of Junctures. These are fiercely contested points in time and space that have the greatest potential to change history. Chi Warriors can travel through portals in the Netherworld to the four main Junctures to join the struggle for control.

The award-winning new edition Feng Shui 2 adds a new concept: Pop-Up Junctures. These can take you to any place and time, but their portals are less stable than the established Junctures. The window may stay open for a week, or even only an hour, putting real pressure on the characters to make an impact before they must leave. For example, our Feng Shui 2 quickstart adventure Hong Kong Task Force 88, now available as a PDF, takes place in the Contemporary Juncture, but with Pop-Up Junctures, you can launch your team of top cops through a portal to fight crime in any setting imaginable.

Feng Shui 2 designer Robin D. Laws gives you even more information in this video about these portals through the Netherworld.

Feng Shui 2: Hong Kong Task Force 88 adventure now available in PDF

Sep 26 2016
Lucky participants in this year's Free RPG Day festivities may have received a glossy, full-color quickstart adventure for Feng Shui 2. But not everyone lives near a Friendly Local Gaming store, and some stores have more participation than they have games to give away.

So we're excited to bring Hong Kong Task Force 88 to everyone in digital format! It's a classic buddy cop adventure, with the best of the best police officers from around the world gathered to solve the mystery of a deadly new drug hitting the streets. Characters clash as they seek to be top cop, but eventually come together to take down the dangerous forces behind the public menace.

Hong Kong Task Force 88 comes with quickstart rules for Feng Shui 2, giving new players and long-time fans an easy introduction to the updated rules. And the adventure has all the crime-solving, high-kicking, guns-blazing action of a Hong Kong action movie. Get your PDF for just $4.95 today!

Three Cheers for Master Now Online

Aug 29 2016

Master is coming, and the clock is ticking down to organize your Minions into cheerleading pyramids of welcome. But you're the only one around, and you can't do it all by yourself. What's a Foreminion to do?

Finally, you've got some backup! Popular Steam game Tabletop Simulator by Berserk Games has released a Three Cheers for Master DLC. Enjoy all the best parts of the Atlas Games card game: build your tower, sabotage your opponents, and revel in the carnage of each Big Hairy Fight. You can play in real time with one to five other players, which is the next best thing to sitting around the table with friends near and far.

If this sounds like a ton of fun, but you haven't had a chance to see Three Cheers for Master in action, Atlas Games has a helpful video to watch. Then check out the pages for Tabletop Simulator and the Three Cheers for Master DLC today!

Munchkin #20 is Gloomy!

Aug 24 2016
The newest issue of the long-running Munchkin comic from Boom! Studios takes its inspiration from the art and events of Munchkin Gloom, spinning a yarn of misfortunate mercenaries and their misguided min/maxing. Take a look:

Best of all, Munchkin #20 serves as a rules supplement to Munchkin Gloom, introducing a new game mechanic to bring even more morose munchkiny fun to your tabletop! For fans of Munchkin Gloom, this issue is a must! (as opposed to musty, which it isn't — we promise!)

Munchkin #20 is available Wednesday, August 24th, at better comic book stores everywhere, or from Warehouse 23.

The Letter Head Design Challenge

Aug 10 2016

letterhead characters l h
Letter Head is a dynamic word-forming card game. Players create words using a special deck of cards that have letters instead of numbers and points instead of suits. Missing a crucial letter? No problem! Canny players can bluff their opponents into thinking they've got every letter they need. It’s engaging, challenging, addictive, and above all, fun.

But Letter Head isn't just a card game, it's an infinitely expandable game kit.

The core rules for Letter Head are not one, but sixteen games, including new spins on old favorites like memory, poker, and word-find. And we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

That’s where you come in. The Letter Head Design Challenge puts you in the designer’s chair. Given a deck of delightfully illustrated cards engineered to reflect the frequency of letters as they really occur in the English language, what game could you come up with?

The Rules


Your submission should be a game, in whatever way you define “game.” It should feature the Letter Head deck, or some subset of the Letter Head deck, as a key feature of its play.

Your submission should clearly communicate to another person how to play your game. Rules are typically written in the second person, as if you are speaking directly to them, using “you” and “your” pronouns in most places. Just like this paragraph.

Existing Letter Head games follow a similar format: number of players, a 2–3 sentence summary to get prospective players excited, the goal, set up, how cards are dealt, how to win, gameplay, scoring, and strategy and hints. Some also include examples of play and variants. You can include any or all of these topics, or invent new ones as needed by your particular design, although deviating from Letter Head’s established format for no obviously discernible reason might earn you a side-eye from the judges.

Your submission should not exceed 2,000 words. For comparison, existing Letter Head games average around 500 words, with the most involved tallying 1,700.

Entries are not being judged on the competence of their layout or graphic design. In fact, we prefer simple use of headers, sub-headers, and body text, with discrete italics and boldface for emphasis.

Your submission should be a PDF, Word, or RTF document. Email it to renee at atlas dash games dot com with the subject line “Letter Head Contest Submission — <YourLastName>.


Judging commences promptly on September 30, 2016, so make sure you've submitted your design by then.


From among the submissions, we’ll choose our five favorites. Our criteria are, in no particular order:
  • Is it fun?
  • Is it original?
  • Is it complete and playable?
  • Does it make use of the Letter Head deck in an interesting way?
We’ll name our absolute favorite The Letter Head Design Grand Champion, and the remaining four will be Runners Up. All winners will be announced by November 15, 2016.


The Letter Head Design Grand Champion wins their choice of any five products from our entire catalogue. Each Runner Up gets one selection from our catalogue. The spoils of your victory will be shipped to you, on our dime.

In addition, all five victors will see their winning entries published in a free-for-download PDF, available at both our website and DriveThruCards. 

Intellectual Property

Acceptance of a Letter Head Design Challenge prize grants Atlas Games the non-exclusive right to indefinitely publish the winning entry in a free-for-download PDF on both our website and DriveThruCards. All authors will be credited for their work in these publications. 


Everyone is eligible to enter! Submit as often as you like! Create individually or as part of a team!

If you have any questions about the Letter Head Design Challenge, feel free to drop us a note at renee at atlas dash games dot com.

Your Game Design Resources

The Deck

Your primary resource is the Letter Head deck itself. Here’s a virtual tour so you know exactly what you have to work with.

Letter Head comes with 130 cards:
  • 120 consonants and vowels distributed according their frequency in English 
  • four wild cards 
  • five scoring reference cards
  • one title card
Each letter card has a number printed on it; this is its point value, which is frequently used for scoring. The more difficult it is to form a word with that letter, the higher its point value.

Additionally, each card is colorfully illustrated. To date, these illustrations have merely been decorative, but that doesn’t mean your game has to use them that way.

The exact breakdown of letter frequency and point values in the Letter Head deck is shown in the values and frequencies chart here. If you’re interested, you can read a bit of history as to how Letter Head’s letter frequencies and point values were arrived at, along with some interesting talk about cryptanalysis.

By no means are you required to use all of the cards in the Letter Head deck. Your game must simply make use of some subset of the cards in a way that’s essential to its play. 

Existing Letter Head Games

You may or may not want to take a look at our rulebook, to see what games already exist for Letter Head.

Additional Components

There are no additional components required or offered, though you are certainly welcome to incorporate new elements into your designs. Dice, tokens, play mats, or whatever else you need to make your game pop are all eligible for inclusion. Our one bit of advice is to keep such materials simple and accessible; nearly everyone has standard six-sided dice at their disposal, but few will be able to 3D print custom play pieces!

Get Letter Head On Sale Now!

Participation in The Letter Head Design Challenge does not require the purchase of a Letter Head deck — everything you need to design your game is provided right here — but for those who want to own the actual thing, Letter Head is on sale now through DriveThruCards. For the duration of this contest, print-and-play Letter Head PDFs are 50% off, and printed Letter Head decks are 15% off!

Atlas Games at Gen Con: Saturday Events

Aug 5 2016
Brace yourselves, Gen Con attendees--it's the busiest day of the con! Here's what's on the plate for Atlas Games on Saturday, August 6.

Stop by the Atlas Games booth #1401 in the Exhibit Hall. By Saturday, the staff is getting a little slappy, and the world-famous Exact Change Dance reflects that!

Atlas Games at Gen Con: Friday Events

Aug 4 2016
We hope your first day at Gen Con was full of fun! Here's a rundown of Atlas Games events on Friday, August 5.

Be sure to stop by the Atlas Games booth at #1401 in the Exhibit Hall to hear about our upcoming releases like Hounded and Gloom in Space!
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