Wizards of the Coast announced an ambitious slate of products for 2001 at the Gama show held in Las Vegas this week.  WotC, a division of toy giant Hasbro is the largest game company of them all, a titan that controls both the top CCG properties (Magic and Pokemon) as well as the top RPGs (Dungeons & Dragons).  


Harry Potter

WotC hopes to get its Harry Potter game to market well before the movie opens; rather than depend on the film, WOTC will try and get its initial sales boost from the tremendous sales of the Harry Potter books.  Each player in the game is a wizard at Hogwarts School who can cast spells and use magical creatures to defeat opponents. Different cards in the series will introduce different levels of play, which range from basic to advanced to expert.  WOTC will use its typical CCG format with starter sets (basic level), themed decks (advanced level) and booster packs (expert level).  Look for all three elements to be in place by the time that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone debuts in November.


Chainmail Miniatures Game

With Mage Knight Rebellion a huge success, can other miniatures games be far behind?  Chainmail, which was the name of the original miniatures game that formed the basis for Dungeons & Dragons, is WotC's first effort in this burgeoning field.  Chainmail will use the d20 game system from the recently published third edition of D&D.  While Chainmail may well be very popular with fans who are thoroughly conversant with D&D, the miniatures used in Chainmail will require painting, and they won't have the combat dials that make Mage Knight's system so user-friendly.  Chainmail looks like a miniatures game for hardcore miniature gamers, which may limit its ability to take advantage of the expansion of interest in miniatures sparked by Mage Knight..


Star Wars RPG

WOTC has acquired the rights to create Star Wars RPGs, and plans an ambitious schedule including two major releases--The Dark Side, which explains how to play a dark side character; and the Rebellion Era Sourcebook, which will provide background information for gaming in the universe of the original Star Wars trilogy.  The Dark Side, which also includes extensive coverage of dark side powers, equipment and weaponry, will debut at Gen Con in August, while Rebellion Era Sourcebook will be published in September.  Other sourcebooks out this year include: Secrets of Naboo, the Living Force Campaign Guide, Secrets of Tatooine, Alien Anthology, and Starships of the Galaxy.  Under its previous licenseholder West End Games, the Star Wars RPG languished as fewer and fewer elements were added each year.  To get this RPG franchise moving again, WOTC will have to make good on their promises to get this material out on schedule.


Magic the Gathering

This venerable franchise product that singlehandedly started the entire CCG phenomenon still sells (see 'Top Ten Cool Lists For January').  The Seventh Edition Magic card series marks the first time that a Magic starter-level game will feature tournament-legal cards.  So in addition to making Magic easier than ever to learn, the Seventh Edition will also include some favorite classic cards including the Shivan Dragon, Serra Angel, and Mahamoti Djinn.  Seventh Edition starters and boosters are slated to ship on April 2, 2001.


Master Tools Software

In addition to revamping D&D with its recently published Third Edition rules, WotC is also streamlining the game electronically with special software releasing this August, which will allow Dungeon Masters to generate characters, monsters, treasures and maps.  Used in conjunction with the Arcanum World Editor, the D&D Master Tools will allow DMs to create their very own adventures in the classic D&D module style.


Sports Games

Given the fantasy or science fiction orientations of all the other WotC games, their three sports CCGs--Major League Showdown, NBA Showdown, and NFL Showdown--come off as real anomalies in the product line.  Certainly the choice of permanent malcontent Gary Sheffield as 'spokesperson' for the MLB Showdown game demonstrates an alarming lack of savvy about the sport.  The ambitious goals of these WotC sports cards--to capture the fun of trading card games, the collectibility of traditional sports cards, the strategy of fantasy sports leagues, and the feel of the actual game -- seem dauntingly difficult to achieve.  The jury is still out on these products, which out of necessity must appeal to an entirely different audience from WotC's other CCGs.