Transcript of the podcast published on October 15th, 2010.
As one of the more unusual and quirky game companies, Yaquinto was always its own beast. It existed only for short 4 years and was founded at a time when wargaming was already on its way out in mass popularity, 1979. But in these 4 short years they managed to become quite a voice in the gaming scene, publishing games of an unusual variety.
The name Yaquinto sounds like a Japanese battle cruiser, but it is derived from the Robert Yaquinto Printing Company of Dallas, Texas, which decided to use its printing resources to power up a game company. For this they hired two well-known wargame designers, Steve Peek and Craig Taylor, who were responsible to create an interesting line-up that would eventually include wargames but also family games, role playing games and SF and Fantasy Games as well as light historical games.
Yaquinto is remembered for their invention of the Album Game format. These came in 2 versions, used at different times in the life of the company:
- The slim album games used a record sleeve for a vinyl record double LP as the game box. The record sleeve folded out to create the game board, counters and rules were stored in the 2 pockets. This made for extremely slim storage, but usually the many game counters inside the sleeves formed little bulges that eventually began to destroy and bend the cardboard covers. Ironically many of these games actually had a sign “This is not a record” on them, so that people would not accidentally think they would buy a music record!
- There were also thicker versions of these album game boxes that had something like a paper counter tray insert in between the two sides. This prevented the problem of the bulging counters, but the insert was so flimsy that it was easily crushed if you stored the games on top of each other. If you stored the games in the upright position though the contents of the insert tended to fall out and get lost easily.
Even though the album games looked cool on first glance, the were something of a drag to use, but they were still MUCH better than the normal oblong boxes used for their larger games – .these were so flimsy that actually already looking at them made them bend. It is extremely hard to find good condition Yaquinto games nowadays and still harder to find some of their best and sought-after games.
It is absolutely impossible to list every Yaquinto game here, so I will name only a few that I know well:
“Swashbuckler” is a still legendary game that simulates Errol Flynn style tavern or pirate combat, using written hidden commands. This is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played; you can confuse opponents by hurling insults at them or waving your hat in their face. It is absolutely stunning to play this game with 6 or more players; the influence on Robo Rally is clearly visible. There was also a science fiction version called “Adventurer” which is less known.
“Mythology” is the best game ever created on Greek mythology. Players have heroes roam the land to fulfil tasks – the players secretly influence these heroes representing the Greek gods by assigning influence points. The game has many rules problems, but these can be solved to create a highly unusual game.
“Hero” was a very successful attempt to create a 3 player dungeon skirmish game. Player A sends his hero into a dungeon controlled by player B, player B sends his hero into a dungeon controlled by player C and player C sends his hero into player A’s dungeon. Lots of hilarity ensues with hidden movement of monsters and even traps. Players design characters like in a role playing game, one important trait was looks, as if you were too ugly the princess you tried to rescue in the game would ignore you.
“Attack of the Mutants” is a very much “Plan 9 from Outer Space” like game, where you defend an underground basis against the attacks of Zombie-Mutants.
“Beastmaster” was Yaquinto’s partly failed attempt to create some kind of “Super-Titan”-variant, but still remains one of the more interesting fantasy battle games out there.
“Apache” was a Western game where players could have Cowboys and Indians fight it out. The game was notorious for its random events table which also featured a landing of aliens in the prairie.
“Dallas” was a roleplaying-lite boardgame featuring the famous J.R. and his consorts.
“Market Madness” was a crazy luck-driven stock market game. Just like real life, then!
“Ironclads” was the still legendary game about battleships in the American Civil War, popular until today.
“Starfall” was an ambitious Science Fiction exploration game for 1-4 players, where the universe was randomly created by a set of sophisticated rules.
“Time War” was the spiritual predecessor of “Time Agent”, a fantastic Time Travel game with many unusual ideas.
“The Roaring 20’s” had players create speakeasies and flee from the police.
“Ultimatum” tackled the most difficult of subjects: Nuclear War.
As you can see the line-up of Yaquinto was weird and very varied, but that is exactly why their games still are remembered until today. Graphic design was not always their biggest strength, but their hard-duty, extra thick cardboard counters were always a joy to handle, even if they were very hard to unpunch.
The games mentioned above are all recommended by me, some of them highly, like “Swashbuckler” or “Mythology”. One can do worse with collector games than with Yaquinto, a company that folded after the computer game market began to take over in 1983. We should remember them fondly – they don’t make them like this anymore!