Franckh madness

Well, I’ve pretty much done it.  I now own a whole bunch of old games published by Franckh, a.k.a. Franckh’sche Verlagshandlung, or best known as KOSMOS.  Let’s take a tour:

In 1987 the Franckh firm was interested in breaking into the hobby game market.  They had just released Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet, (better known in the USA as Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective), which had turned out to be the winner of the German Game of the Year Award, known as the Spiel des Jahres.  I have no inside information, but I assume it sold well enough to cause the directors of this traditional book firm to take notice.  Sherlock Holmes Criminal-Cabinet is a unique game – it is entirely composed of maps and manuscripts.  A nice “bridge” for a book publisher to take into the hobby game market.

But what was Franckh to do?  They had no history in making traditional games with pawns, dice and such?  They came up with a novel plan.  They formed a partnership with Reinhold Wittig, owner/operator of a small game house known as Edition Perlhuhn.  Reinhold would provide them with his backlist of better games, and a few new ones too.  Franckh would publish these in deluxe editions.

This is what I decided to start collecting…

In 1987 Franckh released an impressive number of games, nearly all in oversized boxes which featured a big feather on the cover and the Edition Perlhuhn motif.

 

White Lady is honestly a bad game.  While the artwork is intense and suitably creepy for a game about a ghost, the game play is fatally flawed.  You only get a turn when the ghost approaches your piece on the board!  I need to play this game, but it seems entirely possible you could play the entire game and potentially never get a turn!

Of all the Edition Perlhuhn games issued by Franckh – this is the only one I had ever owned – and I had even traded my copy away previously!  So why did I re-collect this game, and sign up for so many questionable games from this publisher?  Short answer – I’m not entirely sure.

Oh, I enjoy exploring Euros from bygone days.  I’ve got a fondness for Reinhold Wittig’s game Das Spiel, and I was just dazzled by a big collection of these large box games that came up for auction.  But another element was that these games seem largely unloved, yet they had been prepared with such meticulous care by Franckh.  They seemed to need a champion!  And I am a sucker for collecting sets, something I had not done for a few years.  So with as little sense as that made, I was inspired to buy the big lot of games.  And once I owned a few, the urge to get them all was strong.  Here’s the path I followed:

The initial lot:  Arbora, Athos, Das Letzte Paradies, Mueller & Sohn, Ombagi, Orbit, Ronda Magica, Das Spiel, Terra Turrium, and White Lady.  An impressively big lot.  Closer examination led me to notice some interesting subtle points about the games.  Some had a big feather on the cover, but not all.  Some had Edition Perlhuhn emblazoned upon them, others had Spiele Galerie instead.  Hmmm.

Clearly a bit of research was in order.  And I found buried in the recesses of the web the perfect website. You can visit it here: http://www.rgh-soft.de/sprace/perlhuhn.htm

Within I learned about the entire run of Edition Perlhuhn games issued by Franckh.  I was also enticed to see that the picture of White Lady shown there is not a purple box, but more of a dark grey box.  Leading to believe that White Lady was issued in more than one edition.  Maybe I was wrong… Could there really be a game worth reprinting in there?  I also noticed some of the games I bought were not listed!  Where was Athos? Orbit? Hmmm, maybe there was even more to learn than this website had laid out.

Well after quite a bit of research, I assembled a list of all Franckh-issued games.  Turns out this was slightly hard to do.  Boardgame Geek is a great web resource.  But occasionally they make some decisions I find regrettable.  In 1995 Franckh released Settlers of Catan – a huge hit, and still wildly popular to this day.  When the re-issued this game to put the Spiel des Jahre ribbon on the cover, they renamed their game company to KOSMOS.  BGG does not recognize Franckh as a different publisher than KOSMOS.  It’s a reasonable stance I suppose.  But it made it slightly hard to separate the Franckh releases from the later KOSMOS releases.

By my count Franckh released 32 games (including 1st edition Settlers) before renaming themselves KOSMOS.  While I wouldn’t have minded collecting all of these games, the 10 I initially won at auction were just a third of the run.  I had also agreed to buy a couple additional small box games with the feather on the cover from that same seller.  So some serious collecting lay ahead.  But after examining their backlist, I realized there were a few games I wasn’t interested in.  I didn’t want another copy of Settlers, I didn’t need a German language version of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and there were 3 rather dire looking games they had put out outside of their big-box format with the feather on the cover that I felt no need to inspect.  But even so, that left a staggering 15 remaining games I did have some interest in.

I bought a copy of Maritim online.  I traded a game with a friend to get Tal der Koenige, another friend gave me Black Vienna.  I found someone on BGG who would trade me Ayanu.  I bought Wabanti.  I found an old trading partner in Turkey who would trade me the final two small-box games of the series, Corda and Cubus.

Wow – that came quick and relatively easy!  Suddenly the list of missing games of interest was getting small.  I was now just looking for Janus, Hotu Matua, Forum Romanum, Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten, Timon, Pirate Inc, and maybe a couple of others.  Big Boss was the most rare and expensive game of all the Franckh games (but it was not part of the Feather series), and I wasn’t sure I would care to afford it.  And Ranina, while technically part of the Edition Perlhuhn series, was a children’s game, (and has no feather on the box cover).  I stalled for a bit.

I noticed that the pieces used in Terra Turrium were identical to Big Boss.  Hmm.  maybe I could figure a way out to play Big Boss on the Terra Turrium set?  This is still an aspiration, but I have not yet figured it out.  But I think a 6 nimmt beck may prove very helpful.

Meanwhile, the holes in the collection were nagging.  So I started hunting eBay.  I never did buy off eBay though.  Eventually I decided to buy a slightly expensive copy of Janus from a BGG member in Germany.  tick.  Then I decided I might like to get Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten.  This is a game based on a German folktale.  I do enjoy literary tie-ins to games.  I read the folktale, and was charmed.  Hey, what’s this?  There’s a muppet version of this story?  Gotta get that!  Whoops, the DVD I ordered didn’t have it after all – tuns out the Muppet story was released on VHS and has never been ported to DVD.  Sigh.  I really ought to read the descriptions closer…  But hey, someone – in the USA – is selling this game for a very reasonable price.  tick.

Ah, what’s left?  Big Boss-no, way too expensive, and not even one of the Edition Perlhuhn games I initially set out to collect.  Hotu Matua – a copy on BGG for 100 Euros?  Damn!  No that is ridiculous.  Forum Romanum – A few copies available – but I gotta be careful there is a second edition which I don’t want.  Now I really do want all those feathers!  Pirate Inc – not easy to find, and reported not so good.  But the map loks cool and supposedly a recreation of the illustration by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Timon – which I know next to nothing about.

So I go trolling for sellers who list these games for trade.  Bingo.  I find a guy who has four of them: Hotu Matua, Timon, Pirate Inc, and Forum Romanum (1st ed.).  tick, tick, tick, tick.

Oh, did I mention that I’m looking for some English rules?

BTW, for a quick tour of all these games you can read my geeklist here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/71235/pre-kosmos

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