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Links: Nominees for the 2012 IGA, Why Top Ten Lists Are Terrible & How Salmon Swim in Game Terms

W. Eric Martin
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• The nominees for the 2012 International Gamers Awards in the "General Strategy" category have been announced, and in alphabetical order they are:

Multi-player nominees

-----Dungeon Petz, by Vlaada Chvátil (Czech Games Edition)
-----Eclipse, by Touko Tahkokallio (Lautapelit.fi)
-----Hawaii, by Greg Daigle (Hans im Glück)
-----Helvetia, by Matthias Cramer (Kosmos)
-----Kingdom Builder, by Donald X. Vaccarino (Queen Games)
-----Last Will, by Vladimir Suchý (Czech Games Edition)
-----Mage Knight: Board Game, by Vlaada Chvátil (WizKids)
-----Ora et Labora, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
-----Prêt-à-Porter, by Ignacy Trzewiczek (Portal Publishing)
-----Risk Legacy, by Rob Daviau and Chris Dupuis (Hasbro)
-----Trajan, by Stefan Feld (Ammonit Spiele)
-----Village, by Inka and Markus Brand (eggertspiele)

Two-player nominees

-----Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
-----Star Trek: Fleet Captains, by Mike Elliot, Bryan Kinsella and Ethan Pasternack (WizKids)
-----Summoner Wars: Master Set, by Colby Dauch (Plaid Hat Games)
-----Targi, by Andreas Steiger (Kosmos)

(Note: I'm on the IGA jury for the general strategy category, but for the second year running I have abstained from submitting a nominee list.)

• And for general commentary on IGA's general strategy nominee list – and game awards in general – I present Dana Stevens' article in Slate from early August 2012 that is specifically about Sight & Sound's once-per-decade list of "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" but applicable to all such lists in any medium:

Quote:
[W]ill you excuse me if I refrain from joining debates about what does and doesn't belong in the 2012 cinematic pantheon, and take a moment instead to ask: What is the source of the authority we confer on this, or any, list of the "greatest films of all time"?

I'm not saying canonical lists don't have their purposes, and their pleasures.... But there's something in me – and in many cinephiles, I suspect – that chafes at the debates about what titles should go where on the list, who's been shafted and who's been overrecognized. The pomp surrounding the list's release brings out the otherwise extremely latent punk rocker in me: Even though I may agree every film on it is an innovative, significant, and beautiful work – perhaps even among the best in the history of the medium – a part of me can't resist the urge to mock and defile the list itself. I suppose this drive to defile is only the reverse side of an excessive deference to the list – either stance is an affirmation of its ultimate authority. If the unveiling of The List is Moses bringing down the tablets from the Mount, resistance to that unveiling is a dance around the golden calf of anarchic cinematic pleasure. But that dialectical tension between authority and anarchy isn't only played out at the moment of the list's reception – it's present in the construction of the list itself, as each critic's subjective passions do battle with his or her fealty to the notion of establishing and upholding a film canon....

The reason that's most commonly adduced in defense of top 10 lists – that they serve to spark conversations about film – has always struck me as somewhat bogus, because the movie conversations that lists often inspire (Who's up? Who's down? What movies would you put on the list instead, and where?) seem like the least interesting sort to have. Such is the power of the "greatest of all time" list: In order to engage with it in any mode other than dismissal, you must implicitly accept the notion of its validity. It's that feedback loop of respectability that brings out my aforementioned inner punk rocker, juvenilely anti-authoritarian as she may be.

Emiliano Sciarra's card game Bang! was first published in 2002, and in addition to releasing a deluxe version of the game in 2012 – Bang! 10th Anniversary – publisher dV Giochi is holding a design competition in which players are asked to submit a new character card, with the grand prize being one of each Bang! item currently in print. For contest details, head to the dV Giochi website.

• Designer Wolfgang Kramer is interviewed by Derek Thompson at MeepleTown, and here's an excerpt in which he lays out what makes a game good:

Quote:
A good game is a game which you play very often. The more often you play it, the better it is. This is valid for simple and complex games. Family games are games in which the children have the same chance to win as the adults. A good gamer's game is a complex game, which you can play with different strategies. The different strategies should have the same chances to win – the odds are even.

• Dennis at Bellwether Games interviews Jesse Catron, designer of Salmon Run from Gryphon Games, a game that combines deck-building with racing:

Quote:
It was obvious to me from the theme that the game should be a race. I didn't want it to be just quick sprint to the finish like most race games. I needed a way for the game to emulate the struggle and the fatigue of swimming upstream for hundreds of miles. I wanted to reward pacing and timing while punishing recklessness. I needed the game to give players feedback on how they were playing the game and have that affect their future progress in the race. My solution was deck-building. Each player would have their own deck of movement cards. I gave them a choice in how many movement cards they could play from their hand. If they exerted themselves by playing too many movement cards they would gain a Fatigue card which would act to slow them down towards the end of the race. Knowing when to pace oneself and when to exert oneself became vital. This worked remarkably well and provides a nice decision point for gamers and perhaps a lesson in delayed gratification for the young ones.
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Sat Sep 1, 2012 11:17 am
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Links: Trading Games, Writing about Games & Ranting about Owning Too Many Games

W. Eric Martin
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• Stewart Woods, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Western Australia and a postdoctoral research fellow at Curtin University, has written a book titled Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games, and it's already been released by McFarland Press. Here's an overview of the title from the publisher:

Quote:
While board games can appear almost primitive in the digital age, eurogames – also known as German-style board games – have increased in popularity in near-concurrence with the rise of video games. Eurogames have simple rules, short playing times and emphasize strategy over luck and conflict. This book examines the form of eurogames, the hobbyist culture that surrounds them, and the way that hobbyists experience the play of such games. It chronicles the evolution of tabletop hobby gaming, explores why hobbyists play eurogames, how players balance the structure of competitive play with the demands of an intimate social gathering, and to what extent the social context of the game encounter shapes the playing experience. Combining history, cultural studies, leisure studies, ludology, and play theory, this innovative work highlights a popular alternative trend in the gaming community.

Boardgamely is a board game exchange site set up by Adam Thorsen in which users can create a list of owned games that they want to trade – a process that earns them "gold" – then they "buy" games from other users for a price set in gold, in addition to a commission (which bears the name "swap credit"). The game categories on the site match those on BGG. Thorsen launched the site in a beta version in April 2012, and in August he revamped the site based on feedback from users and potential users.

• On Mechanics & Meeples, blogger Shannon Appelcline writes about "the problem of naked aggression", which is not what happens when a pantsless interloper confronts you in the back halls at a game convention, but rather "the ability to wantonly and freely attack another player, to crush their hopes of victory, to see their resources driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women (or men)", to use his words.

• Designer Jason Kotarski and his card game The Great Heartland Hauling Co. were featured on Michigan Live, with the URL for the profile amusingly shortened to "flint_man_creates_truck_driver".

• Someone at Giant Fire Breathing Robot asks whether game quality is decreasing – putting that question in the mouths of others – then answers in the negative:

Quote:
I think those who argue that there was a "golden era" of gaming are merely remembering a time when they first entered the hobby and everything seemed new and exciting. Or a couple of their favorite games (like Puerto Rico or Caylus) happened to come out that year and therefore those years produced "good games" in general.

• Even if game quality is staying at the level of previous years, though, Robert Florence at Rock, Paper Shotgun suggests that you pause to reflect on whether you already have enough games:

Quote:
When it comes to board games, I have too many. At almost 35 years old, I have about 240 board games. Two hundred and forty. Each of those board games take, on average, about three hours to play. That's seven hundred and twenty hours. It would take me thirty days of my life to play all of those games once, if I had some sort of magical android setting them up for me in a giant room with twenty tables. Thirty days of my life to scratch the surface of all of those games. There comes a point when you have to step back and ask yourself if you are some sort of decadent monster, or a total fucking idiot.

When I was a boy, I had some board games. Some. Maybe seven. One of them was HeroQuest, and I played that thing to death. I played it so much that I had to create new dungeons and new cards myself to keep it fresh. At no point did I ever think to myself "Man! I really need some other dungeon crawling game that's almost identical to this one except from a few new little mechanics." At no point did I think "I wish someone would crowd-fund a second edition of this game with nicer artwork. I would totally back that!" I was happy with what I had. I didn’t need anything else. I saw worlds inside that box.

What happened to me? What happened to us?

Well for one thing, I make a lot more money than I did when I was ten...
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Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:58 pm
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News from Italy: Yummell, Magnifico for Tablet, GetGamers App, & Rüdiger Dorn in ILSA

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A new round-up of news from Italy! Some news from Italian companies – such as Ares Games (BGGN link) and dV Giochi (BGGN link) – has already been covered in this space, so I'm going for something really new.

DaS Production: Yummell

DaS Production, an old Italian company from Florence, has announced the September 2012 release of Yummell, a game about fantasy races racing in the ironic fantasy world of Kfoorp, which was created and illustrated by Paolo Chiari, also known as Quercelfo (which in Italian means something like "Oak Elf").

Yummell, designed by Alessandro Ivanoff and Massimo Chiari, includes eight different fantasy races, and each player has a different character to use and a special random advantage. To win the race, you need to run, fly, or use magical powers – or perhaps a mix of all three.

Game board tile, one of the races, and an advantage card

The real engine of the game is a 90-card deck with creatures, events and artifacts that can be used during the game to provide various advantages for you or stumbling blocks for opponents.

Yummell is for 2-8 players, ages 12+, with a playing time of 45 minutes. All of the game components are bilingual in Italian and English, but the box will include only Italian rules, with English rules to be available as a download on the Yummell website.



In fact, the Italian rules (PDF) are already available online, and I plan to write a detailed preview soon as I recently received a preview copy of the game.

ILSA Magazine: Rudiger Dorn Issue

ILSA Magazine #17 will be soon online, first the .epub version via Amazon and Lulu, then a free PDF version on the ILSA website.

This special issue includes an interview with Rüdiger Dorn for The Art of Design interview series I've been conducting. (This interview is also available on OpinionatedGamers.com.)

Magnifico: Da Vinci's Art of War

Spartaco Albertarelli, designer of Magnifico, Dust and other titles, has announced that he's working on a tablet version of Magnifico with a group of experts, including some professors of the Milan Politecnico.

A Facebook page now exists for Da Vinci's Art of War, as the game is being called, and Spartaco's personal blog should have information about the app as well.

WePlay: GetGamers App

Since I've been involved in the creation of the GetGamers app from WePlay almost from the beginning, here's a designer diary of sorts about this app.

While talking with some friends from Modena about gamer communities and associations, we realized that there are many more gamers around than we initially realized, with these gamers being reachable through forums, online resources, and associations. The problem, however, is that sometimes these people live relatively close to one another and share the same interests, but they're unaware that the other party exists.

We started to research on the net for a resource or site specifically for gamers that could help, but we discovered only that the problem was much bigger than we had been thinking. We found lots of threads with requests along these lines: "Are there any gamers in my area?", "I'm looking for people in my town for a game session.", "Do you know associations/clubs near [town name].", "I'm on holiday in Rome. Can someone help me find games shops, gamers and associations for a evening game session?"

So we decided to think about a possible solution, specifically about an app since smart phones and tablets are, day by day, ever more common. We are not app designers, however, so we searched for a company that would be able to fulfill such a project. It would likely be really expensive, but we decided to try.

Of course to do this, we needed to make a plan to (hopefully) cover some of the costs and create something that could survive in the years ahead.

-----• First, we decided it had to be a geolocalized app since the main idea is to find people close to you.

-----• Second, the app needed to be widespread to work well, so we wanted to have a free version with almost all of the functions as well as an inexpensive version.

-----• Third, we needed to include associations, shops, and publishers, so we decided to design a special PLACE add-on.

-----• Fourth, it needed to be useful for gamers, so we would try to integrate it with Twitter, Facebook, BGG, and Game Center.

With this plan, we started to press the developer to have a working release before summer to have the time to contact clubs/associations and give them a free PLACE version ahead of the major release at the start of September after fixing bugs.

This has been an hard project! Developing something that you are not able to develop yourself is not easy, and making non-gamers design something for gamers is also really hard. If you plan to design an app for gamers, think a lot about that!

The main idea throughout the project was to create something that we could be proud of, since – as we've written on the WePlay website:

Quote:
WePlay is a company founded by a group of gamers with the aim to offer products of interest for gamers. We are not looking for money, but we want to get as many Prestige Points as possible. In the "game of life" money is just a medium, but Prestige Points are VP.

The free version of the GetGamers iOS app is now available, as is a version of the app for Android. We are still offering the PLACE add-on for free to all gamer associations that contact us at staff@weplaysas.it (or liga@treemme.org), both to assist the gamer associations themselves and to help the app spread and become known.

We are still awaiting the 1.0.1 release in September 2012 that should fix most of the problems/issues to date, and we hope to have done something really useful for gamers and, perhaps some day, to get back some of the money spent...
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Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:09 am
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Links: Numbers from Gen Con 2012, Gamey Cakes & I Talk a *Lot* about Innovation

W. Eric Martin
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• Geof Gambill has posted the latest episode of his podcast The Long View, and since I'm the guest being interviewed, I thought it would behoove me to post about it here since it's not every day you can listen to me talk for more than two hours on the wondrous game of Innovation as well as "game fatigue, trends in the hobby, and 'game snobbery'". Well, now that the podcast is available, you can indeed listen to me blab for more than two hours about such things. I'm sure you've been waiting for just this day.

• Gen Con 2012 took place August 16-19 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the convention boasted "a turnstile attendance record of 134,775, including more than 41,000 unique attendees", according to a press release from Gen Con LLC media contact Stacia Kirby. More details from the press release:

Quote:
Unique 2012 show attendance rose more than 12% over last year’s prior attendance record, propelled by significant increases to pre-show badge sales and on-site growth in Sunday’s Family Fun Day attendance. Overall, the show has grown in attendance approximately 30% since Gen Con Indy 2010. Turnstile growth for the weekend also was up 9% from last year’s prior record of 119,000 plus weekend attendees. Gen Con’s pre-show Trade Day also expanded, including 232 retailers attending the event, in addition to the growing numbers of educators and librarians that participated in the tracked pre-show program.

Mental Floss, that paragon of bathroom reading material, has highlighted eleven game-inspired cakes, many of which look thoroughly unappetizing but some of which look cool as house decorations – at least for a few days.


• Gary Ray at Black Diamond Games looks at Kickstarter and asks whether the site is "expanding the pie" or shifting sales around in a zero sum game. His conclusion? Inconclusive.

• Here's something of an oddball item: Beth Heile, interviewer of designers and publishers at Spiel 2011, and John Knoerzer have recorded a video reviewing Agent P's World Showcase Adventure, an interactive game located at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World.

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Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Active vs. Passive Media, Games in Mainstream Media & Game Night with Catchphrase

W. Eric Martin
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• Board Game Muse has a short interview with designer Régis Bonnessée about his game Seasons – debuting at Gen Con 2012 – and his other interests.

• Daniel Tack at Forbes.com writes about Gary Games' SolForge, showing multiple (preliminary) screenshots and explaining the game in a bit more detail. I had no idea that Forbes had someone writing about online gaming, collectible card games, and tabletop games...

• Erik Wecks at Wired's Geekdad marvels at Target's recent gaming coups – exclusivity for Star Trek: Catan, and a game cross-promotion deal with Geek & Sundry – and urges local game stores to up their game to survive and even profit from such happenings.

• Adam August at Kicktraq provides a few stats on board and card game Kickstarter projects, focusing on the growth of both backers and pledges in 2012 when compared to 2011:



• On his GamerChris blog, Chris Norwood tries to pin down the difference between board games and other media, focusing on whether they're active or passive media and how that relates to both the user experience and the requirements for critical analysis of the works. A long excerpt:

Quote:
In more or less all other media (even including many videogames, considering their mostly linear format) the underlying idea is that one "author" creates something that is then received/consumed by other individuals. The author has a great deal of control over how the medium is received, the message that is delivered, and ultimately, the experience that is created. And in most cases, the "consumer" interacts with the medium more or less alone (even if they sort of "share" their experience with others by sitting near them or talking about it after the fact). And perhaps the biggest point of contrast to me is that the consumer of passive media has no real option to make a choice about the content of the media or to experience anything different than from what the author has pre-loaded into the work.

The nature of criticism for these "passive" types of media, therefore, tends to focus mostly on the substance of the message delivered by the work, rather than on the "mechanics" of the delivery method. Now certainly, story structure, diction, tone, and other structural elements of how the work was delivered do come into play. But by and large, the bulk of literary and film criticism is much more about discussing the work's message, its relevance to the society in which it was made, its relation to previous works, what experience in the author's life led to it, and other such socio-political issues.

But boardgames are very different. With rare exception, games are meant to be shared, interactive experiences. And one hallmark of modern boardgames is player agency, where the participants are given choices that have a real impact on the outcome of the game. So while a game designer may have a general intent for how a game should develop, the specifics of any one particular play are greatly dependent on the choices of the players involved in it.

Therefore, the most important element of boardgame criticism must be to focus on the mechanical aspects of the game. While the core element of a work in pretty much any other medium is the message that is being conveyed, the core of a boardgame is the system of mechanics constructed by the designer. And even if there is a theme, tone, or message that the designer wants to invoke or portray in some manner, it still comes down to how well the mechanics of the game actually get that message across.

Lots to unpack in this excerpt and the post as a whole, and I disagree with almost all of it, but I'm busting tail to prep for Gen Con, so I'll leave this as a "No, Chris! Bad Chris! No cookie!" and let you all have at it for now.

• From the YouTube description of this Olde Payphone video: "Some people take Catchphrase way too seriously." NSFW. No, really.


(HT: The Dish)
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Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:30 pm
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Links: Kickstarter Boots – Then Brings Back – Bulk Sales & More

W. Eric Martin
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• In a late July 2012 BGGN post about a Kickstarter project for Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot – Deluxe Edition, I noted that "Kickstarter apparently no longer allows for project reward levels aimed at retailers" as project creator/publisher Playroom Entertainment added this note to its project on July 26, 2012:

Quote:
Playroom loves our retailers and we know that the success of Killer Bunnies wouldn't be possible without them. Unfortunately, we were forced to remove the Retailer Level by Kickstarter (at approx. 9am on 7/26) because it violates their newly implemented rule of not allowing "discounted bulk pricing" at a wholesale level for retailers. We are very upset about this, but we have to play by the rules. If you are upset too, please take it up directly with Kickstarter.

Milton Griepp at ICv2 posted a follow-up item with Playroom's Dan Rowen as to how the company became aware of the problem. On the retail side of things, someone at Imperial Outpost Games in Glendale, Arizona recounts how digital PDFs for role-playing games had previously shut out retailers and how he had discovered the pluses of Kickstarter, which took a different approach. Now, though:

Quote:
Now Kickstarter comes along and tells the publisher that it can no longer offer retailer levels or "bulk discounts". *insert sound of a car hitting a wall at 100 mph*. Wut? All of a sudden now, I'm being cut out of the loop AGAIN. Now, with the pdf thing, there were some huge logistical hurdles there keeping retailers out of the loop, it wasn't JUST a "money thing".

This TOTALLY is just a "money thing".

On August 2, 2012, Yancey Strickler at Kickstarter clarified that it didn't really mean no bulk discounts – just no large bulk discounts:

Quote:
As of today, we're defining "bulk quantity" as a reward that offers more than ten of a single item. We feel that a limit of ten will prevent bulk commercial transactions while still allowing independent stores (the most frequent backers of these rewards) to back projects and share them with their communities. Projects are welcome to offer rewards intended for stores so long as they are in quantities of ten or less.

Backing a project has always been about joining a community just as much as it is getting stuff. That's one of Kickstarter's defining traits, and we want that to always be true. We're incredibly proud of the ways that Kickstarter has helped creators bring their work to life and get it out into the world. Watching independent stores use Kickstarter to promote the work of independent creators has been amazing, and we hope it continues.

So, crisis averted? Well, not for this commenter from retail shop Black Diamond Games, who has found that retail backing levels haven't paid off:

Quote:
Although I like supporting the indie guys, it doesn't make sense for me. Despite some huge Kickstarter support numbers, the average game store customer really doesn't care about these projects. These things appear to appeal to the gamer elite, the alphas, the lapsed gamer, and those whose tastes have transcended the mainstream. I sell mainstream, because that's how the rent gets paid, despite yearning for the elite....

The problem with the established publishers is there is no lag time between supporters receiving their goods and distributors. So why buy in at 12 copies on Kickstarter when the distributors will have it three days later? That's exactly what happened with the last product I supported. I would have ordered 2-3 copies from the distributors, but ordered far more than that because I wanted in.

So Kickstarters are not designed for retailers. There is no implied value proposition aimed at us, no promises, only a bone thrown in the corner allowing us to sit at the table. We are appeased by receiving the opportunity to participate, and I do appreciate that, but that doesn't mean we should be involved. There are better uses of our resources than gnawing on that old bone.

• And in other crowdfunding news, Indiegogo is opening a German division and looking to hire. Any gamers interested? (HT: kreikkaturkulainen)

• Patricia Vollmer at Wired highlights upcoming crossover games from Hasbro that use a thematic whitewash from Zynga's online games Farmville, Cityville and Words With Friends.

• Brian Maggio at Global Toy News asks whether we're witnessing the death of the "price point", that being a series of specific price tiers such as $15, $20, $25, etc. From the article:

Quote:
Regardless of the cost/value relationship or the build that had gone into a product, all sales presentations had to align with predetermined price points. "Is that a $14.99 or a $19.99 product?" was a common question that a buyer would pose to the salesperson. (To which I was occasionally tempted to reply, "Well, this one is actually a $17.64 product because of the extra little doo-dad here...") Manufacturers then had to dumb down the product to hit a key wholesale, or build it up somehow to justify the next higher price point.

Then, about a year ago, I heard several manufacturers take the bold stance: We are going to set the wholesale at a level that actually allows for a profit, and let the retailer figure out how to price it.

More of a mainstream issue than something that affects hobby gamers, I suppose, but I think this move could be viewed as akin to how the New York Stock Exchange switched from fractional to decimal stock prices in 2000/2001. The goal of both is to present the potential buyer with a more accurate price while allowing the seller to account for an item's true cost.
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Sun Aug 5, 2012 6:30 pm
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Links: Making Professional Prototypes, Playing Small World for Days & Getting Good Grammar in Game Rules

W. Eric Martin
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• Eric Franklin, Asmodee demo monkey, writes about how he prepares to demo games at Gen Con. (I'll mention in passing that I've spent the past couple of days pushing publishers for updates to the Gen Con 2012 Preview, and I'm still adding information as I receive it. If you're a designer or publisher with things to add, please write me at wericmartin AT gmail.com.)

• On Global Toy News, Richard Gottlieb asks "3D Printing – are we near the tipping point?" Not a terribly informative post and it features annoying sidebar ads, but this is still something for publishers, designers and gamers to think about for the future. Selling blueprints and rules for at-home game creation is a definite possibility just a few years from now. For now, though, designers and gamers will have to be content picking up game parts from places like SpielMaterial or the newly launched in July 2012 nestorbits.

• Until easy home-based parts production comes about, designers will have to contend with making their own prototypes. In an article on Opinionated Gamers that uses his upcoming Suburbia for examples, designer/publisher Ted Alspach shows off his methods and (many) tools for "Professional-looking Prototype Creation".

• Trent from The Board Game Family talks up the merits of renting games and teases those of us who don't have a decent game store nearby that offers this service – which would be most of us, I imagine.

• In June 2012, as noted on BGGN, two fans of Strat-O-Matic Baseball set a new Guinness World Record for longest marathon playing of a board game. Now Scotland gamers Ben Miller, Sean McFarlane, Duncan Conner and Christian Olsson are trying to break that record, and their game of choice is Small World. They started on August 1, 2012, and the site of the record-breaking attempt – the Bus Stop Toy Shop – is posting updates on its Facebook page. The gaming session is being broadcast live on Ustream, and it's also serving as a fund-raiser for Children's Hospice Association Scotland.

• Okay, this post is somewhat off-topic as it relates to games – and yet it's not as I find errors in nearly every rulebook I read, not to mention rules that are incomplete or unclear. Why is it important to have well-written rulebooks? Kyle Wiens makes the case in an article titled "I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here's Why." in Harvard Business Review:

Quote:
[G]rammar is relevant for all companies. Yes, language is constantly changing, but that doesn't make grammar unimportant. Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can't tell the difference between their, there, and they're...

If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use "it's," then that's not a learning curve I'm comfortable with...

Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

When I read a sloppy rulebook, I immediately wonder how much care and attention was put into the game itself. (By chance, I just ran across my 2009 review of Bonnie and Clyde in which I make this exact point.) I'm less trusting of the publisher and any development work done on the game because if you can't get the small details of writing correct – details for which standards exist, details that can be tested by getting others to play your game blindly – what does that suggest about your ability to solve the larger issues of clarity in game play?

(For those who find such issues too mind-numbing to care about, I'll throw you a bone by pointing out that the URL for the article above is shortened to "i_wont_hire_people_who_use_poo".)
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Thu Aug 2, 2012 1:08 pm
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Links: Calculating a Game's Volume, Talking Game Design at Tedx & Importing Illegal Eggs

W. Eric Martin
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• Geek & Sundry, producer of Wil Wheaton's TableTop series of game presentation videos, has announced a partnership with U.S. retailer Target in which starting on August 1, 2012 games featured on TableTop will be available in Target stores and will bear an "As Seen on Geek & Sundry" sticker. Certain games will also be tagged "Featured Game of the Month", and the partnership runs through October 2012. From the press release:

Quote:
We love local game shops, but we know that not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a city that has one. That's why this partnership with Target is so exciting – for those of you who aren't able to find your favorite TableTop games locally, you can now find TableTop-approved titles on Target store shelves near you!

It's hard to believe that our channel, which launched just under four months ago, now has the opportunity to partner with one of the biggest retailers in the United States. The fact that we can walk into a Target store and see an "As Seen on Geek & Sundry" sticker on games is absolutely surreal, and the truth is we couldn't do it without your continued support. It's your support that enables us to make free, awesome content. Every view we get, every RT, every Facebook post, shows potential partners (like Target) that web content is a force to be reckoned with, and it's here to stay.

You know what would be surreal? A birdcage wearing a wig, that's what. I'm just sayin'... [HT: Joel Eddy]

• BGG user Daniel Danzer presents a nicely illustrated review of the 2012 Zoch Verlag release Riff Raff, complete with action shots of the ship rocking back and forth after having dubious cargo brought on board.

• Stuart at RoseCityLive posted an overview of the Game Theory event held at the Science Museum of Minnesota in June 2012, an event that featured games of all types. Local publishers Atlas Games and Fantasy Flight Games participated in the event. From the article:

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There is something to be said about walking into an after hours event at a science museum with the clicks and chirps of eight-bit music being played over the museums speaker system... Within a few beeps I was able to visualize Zelda's Link running around Hyrule battling creatures on his way to saving the Princess.

Sam Liberty and Kevin Spak – co-designers of the Forsooth! RPG, Cosmic Pizza (due out in 2013 from Cambridge Games Factory), and Gladiators (which won a 2010 design contest sponsored by Rio Grande Games) – are interviewed on the Bellwether Games blog about their philosophy of game design and their need to work as a team. (They even answer questions together!) An excerpt:

Quote:
As for why we like to design games, it's an art, you know? Design is really fascinating in that in some ways it's a very creative process, and in others it's completely practical and technical. Juggling that stuff is fun. It's like you're writing a story and solving a puzzle at once.

• And for more from Liberty and Spak, here's a talk they gave at TedxBoston in June 2012 on the topic of "fun" as it relates to game design:


• If you're from the U.S. and headed to Essen, Germany in October for Spiel, do not even think about bringing home Kinder Überraschung eier. You have been warned. (HT: Dale Yu)

• On his Pawnstar blog, Anthony Simons adds a third dimension to depth and breadth so that he can discuss a game's volume:

Quote:
The best games (at least from my perspective) also hold the player's interest and/or involvement for the full length of the game. As "length" already has definition in game terms (as in how long it is played for), I tend to call this "span", as in the game's span fails to reach the duration, or alternatively extends to the game's length.

Span does not necessarily need to be contiguous either; if every player is placed in the position of having to await his turn before considering his options, then that's a gap in the span, and if there's a tendency towards analysis paralysis, there is probably very little span in the entire game (whatever the length).

One more dimension, and perhaps we can start receiving game reviews from Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which...
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Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:30 pm
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Links: How Trek Entered Catan, How to Promote Your Own Games, & How Not to Open a Game Store

W. Eric Martin
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• On the Catan blog, Gero Zahn details how his homemade "Space Settlers" variant of The Settlers of Catan unexpectedly became the prototype for Star Trek: Catan. An excerpt:

Quote:
After extensive deliberation [designer] Klaus [Teuber], Sebastian [Rapp from Kosmos Verlag], and I as well as the rest of the Catan team agreed that The Settlers of Catan is extremely well suited for a Star Trek license edition. To put it in a nutshell: Catan epitomizes constructiveness and cooperation, where often the journey is the destination and, in many cases, you can only win if you make amicable arrangements with the opponents. And that's extremely compatible with what Star Trek also stands for.

We thought that to allow both Catan fans and Star Trek fans relatively intuitive access to each other's universes, a complex, stand-alone Catan scenario in the fashion of The Starfarers of Catan would be rather unsuitable. The starting point, therefore, was my Settlers of Catan adaptation "Space Settlers," whose unchanged game mechanics also worked well visually. We "only" had to transfer it from its generic, public-domain context I intentionally had given it back then, to the Star Trek universe.

• In their "From Inspiration to Publication" blog, designers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim offer advice to new (and existing) designers on how to promote your games. I was name checked in the post, so I feel obligated to read the piece and pass it on. Self-promotion achieved!

• U.S. publisher Hasbro has released its financial results for Q2 2012, and in the category of relevance for this site, "Net revenues in the Games category declined 8% to $213.8 million with Magic: The Gathering, Duel Masters and Battleship brands continuing to grow."

• On Gamehead, Michael Bahr – who describes himself as "managing partner of Desert Sky Games LLC, which will open its flagship store [in Q3 2012] in Gilbert, Arizona" and someone who has "had an ownership stake in five game stores since 1997, some successful, others disastrous" – catalogs five mistakes that people make when opening game stores. An excerpt:

Quote:
A good back-of-the-envelope rule is that you need in liquid cash at least fifty times the square footage figure of the location you plan to rent. Desert Sky Games is opening in a 2500-square-foot suite in a three-year-old building, and raised $110,000 in capital.

Where does all this money go? About a quarter to a third to initial inventory, some to provide a few months' operating expenses, and the rest to development of the store – and that is where most owners miss the boat. Most owners allocate adequate cash to trading card game inventory, and the fast turn rate of those products helps the store's bottom line look good in the early going. Often this means they won't see how they undercapitalized elsewhere until it's too late.

And then there's this pearl of wisdom: "Many stores rent somewhere cheap so they can use a 'light box' marquee sign at a cost of around $1000. However, no location worth opening a game store in will allow light boxes." Ah, yes, I remember the good ol' days at Iron Vic Comics in Poughkeepsie, New York, with the owner doing everything possible not to spend a dime on anything he could get away with, the light box shining down on the flighty Vassar College students, the air conditioner doing little more than pushing hot air around during the summer, the carpet threadbare and developing long wounds from all who trudged in all winter with gravel and sand on their feet. Cheapness abounded in all ways...

• Online gaming site Happy Meeple has added a previously unpublished Reiner Knizia game to its offerings: Keltis Ór. What do you do in the game? Well, you need to unlock the game by first playing other games and earning resources, which you can then cash in for gold to pay the cost of the game – but I think the Knizia/Keltis names and a look at the screenshot below will answer most of your questions.

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Sun Jul 29, 2012 6:30 am
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Links: Interviews with Richard Launius, Patrick Nickell and Michael Coe, Randomness Explained & Christopher Nolan: Game Designer?

W. Eric Martin
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• German publisher H@ll Games has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Pegasus Spiele, with Pegasus having worldwide distribution rights outside of North America. This agreement applies to H@ll Games' Luna as well as the forthcoming Il Vecchio from Rüdiger Dorn, which is due to debut at Spiel 2012 in October. (H@ll Games' Ralph Bruhn is also serving as developer for Stefan Feld's Rialto, coming in late 2012 or early 2013 from Pegasus Spiele.)

• In his BGG blog Straight Talk on Strategy Gaming, Nate Straight covers – well, let's put this in his own words: "I intend to discuss what randomness is, why it matters and occurs in gaming, how we can interpret and analyze randomness, and when it is or is not an appropriate game mechanism for a game design." If you have a few hours to kill before heading home from work, check out his article, "As Luck Would Have It--On Randomness, Uncertainty, and Chance".

• Here's something I missed in early July 2012: Designer Richard Launius being interviewed by Dice Hate Me's Chris Kirkman about Ace Detective, a storytelling card game with noirish overtones that's due out in December 2012 from 8th Summit thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign.

• Can a movie be a game that the audience participates in unknowingly? James Verini makes the case in a post on The New Yorker's "Culture Desk" titled "Christopher Nolan's Games". An excerpt:

Quote:
Nolan's entertainments, the best ones, anyway, are games. I don't mean that they resemble puzzles or tricks (though they do that, too), I mean that they are most satisfying when understood as games, not as novelistic narratives. They are contests with rules and phases, gambits and defenses, many losers and the occasional victor, usually a Pyrrhus type.

Take Inception. Many thrilled to this story about corporate spies who invade dreams, but smart critics tended to find it, like Slate's Dana Stevens, "mind-blowing but not heart-moving". On the whole, men like it more than women. I was confused by this until one female friend cut me off as I tried to explain my adoration for Inception, with, "Ugh, see, you have to explain it. It was all exposition." And she's right – the movie suffers from male-answer syndrome. When Inception isn't explaining the rules of inception, the trick of implanting ideas in minds that's at the center of its plot, it's explaining the rules of Inception.

• On the blog Go Forth and Game, Tom Gurganus interviews Patrick Nickell and Michael Coe from Crash Games about game balance, The Lost Dutchman (recently successfully funded on Kickstarter), and the forthcoming designs Pay Dirt from Tory Niemann and Lords, Ladies & Lizards: The Adventure Game from Michael Coe. That's certainly an intriguing title, if nothing else.

• "Wolfie" at the blog I Slay the Dragons wonders whether we ask too much of the games we play:

Quote:
A common complaint about many board games (especially games that shoot up on the popularity list right around launch time) is that they don't hold up to many plays before they get boring and repetitive...

Think about this: when you buy a new book, or a new movie, you excitedly read through it (or watch it). And then? It goes on your shelf. Probably for a few months at least, but maybe even years. Why do you keep it? Well, maybe you want to read it again someday. Maybe you want to have it available to lend it to friends and family. If it's a movie, it might come out when you have a group of friends over. But however often it is consumed, we never read our books or watch our movies ten times in one week and then complain about how it's the same experience every time.
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Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:30 am
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