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Archive for Industry News
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W. Eric Martin
• In a Nov. 7, 2012 press release, publisher Spin Master Ltd. notes that "a Los Angeles jury unanimously found yesterday that Zobmondo!! Entertainment LLC and its owner Randall Horn ('Zobmondo') are liable for willfully infringing Spin Master Ltd.'s WOULD YOU RATHER...? trademark". From the release:
For years, Zobmondo has sold board games, books, and card games under the WOULD YOU RATHER...? brand, in violation of the trademark rights of Spin Master Ltd. and [its licensors Justin Heimberg and David Gomberg, authors of the Would You Rather...? series of books]. After a two week trial, the jury reached a verdict awarding Spin Master Ltd. $5.1 million in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded an additional $3.5 million in punitive damages after finding that Zobmondo acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. In so doing, the jury affirmed the validity of Spin Master Ltd.'s WOULD YOU RATHER...? trademark.
Hmm, would you rather have an $8.6 million judgment against your company or attempt to gargle a salad of raisins, asbestos and shards of glass? (HT: Purple Pawn)
• Mad Men actor (and BGG user) Rich Sommer has added an intriguing and unique prize lot on the 2012 Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Auction: a game night in Los Angeles with him and fellow actors Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) and Jorge Garcia (Lost). Notes Sommer in the description:
The toughest part may be the scheduling. We will work closely with the winner to pin down a time that works for everyone, but we will all need to be a little flexible. Might be easier if you're someone in or near the LA area, but, hey. Go for it. [...]
Let me tell you right now: I know Simon and Jorge, and they like games. Our games. Good games. So this will be a LEGIT GAME NIGHT.
• Following the votes of roughly 11,000 people, the winners of the Speelgoed het van Jaar – the toy of the year award in the Netherlands – have been announced, with Bernd Brunnhofer's Stone Age winning in the 12+ category and Frans Rookmaaker's Boom Boom Balloon winning in the 9+ category.
• Retailer Gary Ray from Black Diamond Games in California notes that he's through carrying Kickstarted games from small and medium-sized publishers:
Bigger projects can break out of this market saturation, but for the most part, most Kickstarter products we've brought into the store lately, including games that are highly ranked and reviewed, have failed for us. This includes companies that used to sell direct to us that now use Kickstarter. They've captured all our previous customers. Good for them, but obviously I shouldn't continue participating in that.
Kickstarter on a product now says to me, "Hey, we've done our best to sell this exact product, along with bonuses you can't offer, direct to customers before you. But perhaps you know somebody we missed?" Unlike the PDF market, which sells a different product, or the direct sales competitor, who sells things at the same time as us, the Kickstarter product is sold to customers not only before we can get it, but with added benefits. As I've mentioned, the Kickstarter market is a tiny part of the game trade, but these small companies used to have a place on our shelf. Now I'm pushed to focus on the mainstream, which is unfortunate.
Another retailer chimes in along the same lines in the comment section: "When I have gamers coming in talking about a game on KS, it immediately, in my head, goes to the 'stay away from this' pile..." Something for smaller publishers to keep in mind if they're trying to enter the normal distribution system and not limit themselves to direct sales or sales via Kickstarter (notwithstanding the small detail that, of course, "Kickstarter isn't a store" so no one is actually selling games that way, right?).
• Under the headline "Is this the oldest d20 on Earth?", io9 highlights a twenty-sided die dating from "between 304 and 30 B.C., a timespan also known as Egypt's Ptolemaic Period". Funny thing is that if you click through to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the die is housed, you'll find another die (shown below) dating from the same time period, which makes the headline question a tad silly since it suggests that only one such die from this time period exists. Ah, well – now we should be looking for a treasure table on a pyramid wall, or perhaps a hieroglyph that looks like a beholder... (HT: Dale Yu)
W. Eric Martin
• Wizards of the Coast has posted an interview with the original designer of Dungeon!, David R. Megarry. An excerpt:
I assume that the earliest playtests of the game were done with the Blackmoor group. What changes (if any) came about as a result of these playtests?
DM: Well, I think we played it three or four times but then the prototype went to Gary Gygax in Lake Geneva. I invented Dungeon!
in October, 1972 and visited Gary (with David Arneson) in December, 1972. Gary liked the game a lot and was willing to try to peddle it to [Don] Lowry [of Guidon Games
, the original publisher of Chainmail
]. I left the prototype with him at that point. I had not made a copy of anything, so this was a very trusting activity. Ultimately I got the board back and the cards but the hand drawn rule booklet was lost. Anyway, the Lake Geneva crowd did more playtesting than the Blackmoor crowd.
Gary made some changes to the board, insisting that there was an imbalance in the movement on the fourth level, but by and large the game has remained essentially as I designed it. Gary did request player-to-player attack rules which I supplied but I insisted they be optional rules. He added a few more optional rules like wandering monsters, but I viewed these as complications to the basic play: Ma and Pa America was going to have enough work to understand the basic rules let alone learn how to fight each other. Arneson and Gygax were both into complicated, lengthy rules in all their games; it took a lot of effort on my part to keep it simple.
• Derek Thompson at MeepleTown has interviewed artist Pierô, who has illustrated Ghost Stories, Mr. Jack, the 2012 edition of River Dragons, and many other releases from French publishers. An excerpt:
When I'm playing a prototype that I have to illustrate, I'm always trying to think how I will dress up the mechanism of the game to give them a visual aspect. Doing a beautiful game is a challenge because it's not necessary to do a good game and because, sometimes, because the game is beautiful, it's less "playable", "readable"... A boardgame illustrator has to always keep in mind "mechanisms come first, beauty after".
• Is Disney looking to buy Hasbro? MTV Geek contemplates the rumors floating just that idea.
• After hearing an aggravating interview in which the manager of the Parisian trade fair Kidexpo presented "facts" about board games that were "appalling, inconsistent, obsolete and malinformed", game designer Bruno Faidutti responded by writing about five truisms that people hold about games and why they're not true. One of those truisms and Faidutti's response:
Commonplace #5: Games are not intended to be taken seriously.
Unlike work, which needs some detachment and ought not to be taken too seriously, games need to be played with the utmost seriousness and dedication. Always trying to be a winner in real life is a very bad idea, since it brings disappointment and often makes you look ridiculous. In a game, if all players are not trying to win, the game simply falls flat and becomes pointless and boring. The reason is that victory is its only point, when no one has the slightest idea what the point of real life is.
This doesn't mean games can't be fun. I like fun games, and I think I design fun games, but fun is no more a necessary feature of games than it is of novels or movies. They can be fun, they don't have to. There's not the slightest fun in Chess
, Ticket to Ride
or Settlers of Catan
, but this doesn't mean one can't have fun playing them. That's what Blaise Pascal has explained in his theory of diversion, and that's what Freud later said: the opposite of play is not seriousness, it's reality.
• French publisher Moonster Games has posted a brief interview (in French) with Yoshihisa Itsubaki, designer of Streams, which Asmodee will distribute. I haven't tried Streams yet, so I can't say anything about it other than that it sounds perfect for fans of puzzly games like Take it Easy!, Finito! and 5 vor 12, but I was struck by his favorite movies: Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie. Soulmate! Plus, he wore this awesome ninja shirt at Spiel 2012. Click through to the interview to see the ninja revealed...
W. Eric Martin
• I'm a bit behind the news curve due to my focus on the Spiel 2012 Preview and the attendant addition of games to the BGG database and rewriting of game descriptions, so you might have heard this news already. If not, here we go: The winners of the 2012 International Gamers Awards have been announced, with Stefan Feld's Trajan from Ammonit Spiele winning the multi-player award and Uwe Rosenberg's Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small from Lookout Games winning the two-player award. (You can view the twelve nominees in the former category and the four in the latter in this BGGN post.) Congrats to the winners!
(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.)
• Alain Ollier's The Boss is now playable in a beta version on Board Game Arena, while Emiliano Venturini's tricky-sounding Carnac has been added to BoardSpace.net.
• UK publisher Reiver Games went out of business in 2011, but in addition to working on new game designs, owner Jackson Pope has been thinking about what went wrong with his business, and his analysis might be of use to all the young guns starting up as publishers these days. An excerpt:
I tried to move from being a small hobby publisher with a dedicated, but small, army of fans to being a full-size pro publisher with professionally manufacturer games and sales and distribution channels. And I tried to do it too quickly. If I was a marketing genius, it's conceivable that it could be done, but it was a long shot and I didn't have it in me.
• Designer Andrew Looney and his wife Kristin – co-owners of U.S. publisher Looney Labs – were featured in The Gazette, a newspaper published in Maryland, which is where they live. One detail of note: "The company offers 20 game titles, with numerous playing styles, and generates about $1 million in yearly revenues. They hope to exceed that sales total this year with the entrance of Fluxx into the mainstream market."
• Designer Tony Boydell is up to his usual word play in his BGG blog with a ludic reimagining of a classic number from Queen (and that's not a shortening of Queen Games, mind you). An excerpt:
Are these the real dice?
For Fighting Fantasy?
Caught in Wallenstein
No Escape! from Polarity...
Open your Ice, Flow up to Sun-Sand and Sea (!)
I'm just a Troyes boy I need no Sympathie
Take It Easy come, easy go; little high, little low
And Before the Wind blows doesn't really matter Tomy, Tomy...
W. Eric Martin
• In the run-up to Spiel 2012, which opens October 18 in Essen, Germany, designers and publishers have been talking about their upcoming games a fair amount, such as this interview on Opinionated Gamers with Tony Boydell, whose Snowdonia is coming from three publishers: Surprised Stare Games, Lookout Games, and uplay.it edizioni.
• In another interview, Opinionated Gamers' editor Dale Yu also talks with designer/publisher Ted Alspach about Suburbia, a game on which Yu served as developer.
• Also on OG, Andrea Ligabue previews Cranio Creations' 1969 in addition to posting two previews of all the Italian publishers who will have a presence at Spiel 2012.
• Designer Jeffrey D. Allers, who will see his Nieuw Amsterdam debut at Spiel 2012, is hosting his annual "After Essen Party" in Berlin at the Spielwiese game café. Allers writes:
Six years ago, Michael Schmitt agreed to help me bring a little bit of Spiel back from Essen and celebrate in his Spielwiese cafe with all the great new games released there – many of them from Berlin designers.
The photo galleries on my After Essen Party page
show some of the fun from the past five years. As you can see, it has been a great mix of games and guests from around the world, and we can even claim that Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) award winner Qwirkle
was discovered here!
As always, the 6th Annual After Essen Party is open to the public, athough space is limited and it is best to come early. Visiting designers are welcome to show their newly released games as well (please, no prototypes, however). Feel free to contact me
or Michael at the Spielwiese
in advance (especially if you are a game designer or publisher). The party is on the Tuesday after Spiel (Oct. 23, 2012), beginning at 7 p.m. Hope to see you at Spiel and at the party in Berlin afterwards!
• Publisher Korea Boardgames is hosting a game design competition with a submission deadline of October 10, 2012. Details on the competition are included in this BGG thread.
• Out of the Box Publishing has published a short interview with designer Aaron Weissblum, who teases gamers with a mention of the ever-elusive Spinball. More copies, please, Aaron! It'd be like printing money...
• On GameHead, Michael Bahr from retail store Desert Sky Games details "5 Unseen Costs That Threaten Game Stores". An excerpt:
Everybody knows about shrinkage, but few have experienced just how pernicious it can be. Shrinkage is particularly bad in hobby gaming retail, where too many store owners use a "dumb" cash register and manage inventory by pencil and paper and the vagaries of proprietor memory. A game store cannot protect what it cannot measure, and it cannot measure what it cannot track. The necessity for a proper point-of-sale software infrastructure cannot be emphasized enough.
Is this where I add the link to Seinfeld?
W. Eric Martin
• Is game design a genetic trait that passes from generation to generation? No, it's not, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so after viewing the winners of the 2012 Deutscher Spiele Preis. The Brand family made off with the top spots, with Inka and Markus Brand taking first place for Village, which won the Kennespiel des Jahres earlier in 2012, and their children Emely and Lukas Brand winning Deutscher Kinderspiele Preis for Mogel Motte! Here's a pic of the champs from Spielbox:
The winner of the DSP is determined through votes by the public, whether game players, retailers, designers, or those who randomly stumble across the site. Voters submit a list of up to five games, with the top game receiving 5 points, the second one 4 points, etc. The top ten vote-getters for the 2012 DSP were:
1. Village, by Inka and Markus Brand (eggertspiele)
2. Trajan, by Stefan Feld (Ammonit Spiele)
3. Hawaii, by Greg Daigle (Hans im Glück)
4. Ora et Labora, by Uwe Rosenberg (Lookout Games)
5. Helvetia, by Matthias Cramer (Kosmos)
6. Targi, by Andreas Steiger (Kosmos)
7. Kingdom Builder, by Donald X. Vaccarino (Queen Games)
8. Vegas, by Rüdiger Dorn (alea)
9. Africana, by Michael Schacht (ABACUSSPIELE)
10. Santa Cruz, by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle (Hans im Glück)
My guess, based on no inside information, is that the heavyweight trio of Trajan, Hawaii and Ora et Labora split the votes of heavyweight game fans, while Village was the solid middleweight choice and threaded the needle to take the prize. That said, I've played Village more than each of those other three games, so perhaps lots of other voters are just like me and Village landed on the top of their lists naturally.
Schmidt Spiele's publication of Hayato Kisaragi's Grimoire won the "Goldenen Feder" for best rules, and designer Wolfgang Kramer won a special prize for lifetime achievement.
• In other award news, the nominees for the Premio Juego del Año – the game of the year award in Spain – have been announced, and they are:
—Hanabi, by Antoine Bauza (Cocktail Games – Asmodée Ibérica)
—Kingdoms, by Reiner Knizia (Edge)
—La Villa, by Inka and Markus Brand (Ludonova)
—Santiago de Cuba, by Michael Rieneck (Ludonova)
—The Island, by Julian Courtland-Smith (Asmodée Ibérica)
The winner will be announced October 13, 2012. Hope the Brands have more room on the mantle for another trophy...
• French publisher Gigamic reports that Blaise Muller's Quarto! has now sold more than one million copies. That's a lot of wood!
• The Gigamic release Color Pop from Lionel Borg is now playable on Board Game Arena.
• Oliver Kiley blogs on BGG about "modes of thinking" in games – that is, what kind of thoughts, decisions, and considerations players need to make in a game and the associated mental resources needed for those actions – with his three modes of thinking being spatial, economic, and intuitive.
• Boing Boing covers Monopoly: Alan Turing Edition, due out late in 2012 from Winning Moves Games. Best comment in the post: "The real question is: Is this version of Monopoly NP-complete?"
W. Eric Martin
• In its Sept. 5, 2012 Daily Illuminator, Andrew Hackard at U.S. publisher Steve Jackson Games says that the company is blowing through the 23rd printing of Munchkin – 100,000 copies – much faster than it had anticipated thanks to the game's presence on TableTop, in Target, and in the hands of so many pushy fans, so the 24th printing will be boosted to 120,000 copies. In an interview on ICv2, Hackard elaborates further on Munchkin sales: "I don't have the actual year over year percentage increase, but as of the end of July  we have sold almost as many copies as we sold all of last year of Munchkin. The past three or four years particularly have been going up further every year."
• Speaking of TableTop, in a separate interview on ICv2, Days of Wonder's Mark Kaufman goes into some detail as to how Small World's appearance on the first episode of that web series affected sales:
We were surprised at the response rate. We had close to five times the sales that month that we would have had normally and the next month it continued to be extremely high as well. So that was the first part of May  when that first ran and now that we're several months past that, we have reached a run rate that is much higher than it was previously with the Small World game...
It's almost 100% higher than what was. It reinvigorated not only new people but it also got the core people going, "That was really cool. Small World, I like playing it." And that's what brings new people into the hobby.
• U.S. publisher Fundex has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As noted by Rachel Feintzeig in The Wall Street Journal, "The company has $1.5 million in assets and $8.9 million in liabilities to contend with as it works to restructure and is in desperate need of funding, it said in court papers... The company, based in Plainfield, Ind[iana], is seeking court approval to tap cash collateral to keep it afloat as its case plays out. It said it's planning to keep its business operating in the ordinary course but isn't ruling out the idea of selling its assets in bankruptcy."
• On Mechanics & Meeples, blogger Shannon Appelcline examines the core elements of Dominion and whether those elements are part of every deck-building game or something that other deck-building designers and publishers simply lifted due to laziness or false assumptions about what's required in a DBG.
• Designer Lewis Pulsipher tells a horror story in his BGG blog:
Here's the kind of really sad story you can hear sometimes from novice designers. At one of the game design/game publishing seminars at Gen Con, right at the end, someone raised his hand and said he and a group of friends had been working on a game for seven years, and it was a great game, and they had spent over seven years and a million dollars developing it including paying Marvel comic artists to do the art; and how could he get to talk to Fantasy Flight Games about it? The three panelists were taken aback – if I wrote in contemporary style I would say they were "stunned" – and said nothing for a moment. Because there's really nothing to say. These "designers" were in cloud-cuckoo land to spend so much time and money, and their game very likely wasn't particularly good, either.
W. Eric Martin
• On The New Inquiry, in an article titled "No Accidents, Comrade", Jeremy Antley approaches Matthews and Gupta's Twilight Struggle from an interesting academic angle. The opening paragraph:
It is curious that chance and all the chaos it implies became a bedrock component of what it is to be American. From a young age, schoolchildren are told that they can become the president or an astronaut, because only in America do people have the chance to become whatever they want. The market system carries the belief that only chance can guarantee true transactional efficiency and separate innovative wheat from mundane chaff. Interventions that impede working of the "invisible hand" increasingly crowd out the chance new discoveries will be made. Narratives using chance in American culture — the rags-to-riches story, or immigrant emigration story lines — are so prominent, they are often taken for granted. But the illusion of freedom these narratives convey helps conceal the way chance circumscribes experience. Even the phrase land of opportunity carries overtones of chance: Some will make it; others won’t. There is no destiny, only opportunities that one must take advantage of when chance allows.
Later in the piece:
But where fiction generally resists reader alteration, board games take it for granted and depend on it. A fictional narrative remains the same despite how it's interpreted by readers. The underlying expectation in gameplay, however, is that the player actively constructs a narrative and perhaps even modifies the game's rules. Meaning for players comes only through the active process of experiencing play. Operating Twilight Struggle's narrative platform provides a ludic truth — truth through play that gives experiential knowledge using popular, though misleading, historical explanations for the period. It purports to compress the Cold War experience while maintaining some semblance of fidelity to the mentalité of the period, but the chance experienced through gameplay is wed to narrative exposition that clearly embraces a U.S.-centric worldview. Chance narratives help players validate experiential knowledge they acquire during play, but their execution actually inverts the meaning of chance, so that the objective reality behind the Cold War presented in Twilight Struggle becomes illusion. The ideology behind chance is thus recharged through play, validating the American Cold War experience on the basis of an illusionary reality where chance effects are safely circumscribed.
As evident above, the article includes terms like "mentalité", so considered yourself warned.
• Hasbro is looking for game designers. What the publisher is looking for:
Our fast-paced team of design strategists has an immediate need for innovative designers/product developers. In this exciting role, you will combine your global mindset and passion for building and implementing design strategies to deliver market revolutions and best in class brands. Partnering with cross-functional teams (marketing, engineering, packaging, etc.) you will maximize current technologies and trends and leverage best practices to enable the business to meet and/or exceed brand goals.
Your first assignment? Buzzword: The Savvy Marketing Paradigm Game.
• Gaming Chronicles has posted audio files of a five-part interview with Steve Jackson Games' Andrew Hackard "about Munchkin Conan, the Ogre re-imagining, and details about some future releases for the amazing game maker". Why post the interview as five separate files when the files are unlabeled and have no advertising attached to them? I dunno, but that's just what Gaming Chronicles did.
• Attending Spiel 2012 and not sure what to do on Wednesday night before the convention opens? Assuming, of course, that you can't sneak in early to pick up something fresh off the printing rack? Designer Roland Weiniger is involved in Essen Warm-up Day, an event designed for all those in your situation so that you can moan about your sorry state together. Or perhaps play games with one another. Your choice.
• Awesome Dice Blog lives up to its promise of awesomeness by publishing a comparison of d20 dice from GameScience and Chessex in which each die is rolled 10,000 times with the results then examined for true randomness:
If we had a d20 that rolled perfectly, each face would come up 500 times. But of course randomness isn't perfect and we'd expect some deviation: Over the course of 10,000 rolls we'd expect, with 85% confidence, that each face would be within about 33 of 500 — so anywhere from 467 to 533 is within the bounds of randomness. (At 95% confidence the margin of error is 45.) Neither die falls within these bounds.
The Chessex d20 had a standard deviation of 16.13, and the GameScience d20 had a standard deviation of 12.25.
One big caveat on the GameScience die: "the number 14 which [was] rolled vastly less often than it should have". The problem? Non-flush flashing.
W. Eric Martin
• The nominees for the 2012 International Gamers Awards in the "General Strategy" category have been announced, and in alphabetical order they are:
-----• 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)
-----• 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:
[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:
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:
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.
W. Eric Martin
• 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:
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:
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
) 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:
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...
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (or email@example.com), 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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