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BoardGameGeek News

To submit news, a designer diary, outrageous rumors, or other material, please contact BGG News editor W. Eric Martin via email – wericmartin AT gmail.com

Archive for Industry News

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Starting in 2016, Asmodee Will Operate as Asmodee North America, Cut Off Distributors, and Limit Online Sales

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On Dec. 17, 2015, the North American branch of Asmodee announced several changes in its structure and business model, starting with the formation of the umbrella organization Asmodee North America. As of January 1, 2016, all titles from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), Days of Wonder (DoW), and Asmodee Publishing will be marketed and sold by Asmodee North America (ANA), which will be located in Roseville, Minnesota, home of Fantasy Flight Games.

Perhaps not coincidentally, at that time FFG CEO Christian Petersen will become CEO of Asmodee North America. A press release from ANA states that this change in the overarching business structure "will have no effect" on the titles being produced by FFG, DoW, and Asmodee Publishing, a claim that mirrors those made when Asmodee bought Days of Wonder in August 2014 and acquired Fantasy Flight Games in November 2014.

Even larger changes are taking place behind the scenes, with ANA stating that as of January 1, 2016, it will authorize only five distributors in the U.S. — ACD Distribution, Alliance Game Distributors, GTS Distribution, PHD Games, and Southern Hobby Supply — for resale of its products to retailers within the country. This new distribution policy will prevent some current distributors of FFG and Asmodee titles from doing so in the future; at the same time, Days of Wonder product will no longer exclusively be available through Alliance Game Distributors, a situation that's existed since July 1, 2008. Retailers can also purchase product directly from ANA.

What's more, retailers that want to continue carrying and selling titles from ANA need to become authorized as an "Asmodee Specialty Retailer" by April 1, 2016 — and to do that they need to agree to the terms of its Asmodee North America Specialty Retail Policy (PDF).

The existence of a retail policy isn't surprising. Businesses use these to ensure that the products that they deliver to distributors aren't tampered with or represented in ways not intended by the originating business, that buyers agree to specific payment terms, and so on. What is surprising is this all-caps section of the Specialty Retail Policy (SRP):

Quote:
IV. Retailer's Conduct

A. Channel of Sale
RETAILER MUST NOT SELL OR TRANSFER ANY ANA PRODUCT PURCHASED HEREUNDER IN ANY MANNER OTHER THAN THROUGH FACE-TO-FACE COMMERCIAL RESALE EXCHANGE WITH END-USERS IN RETAILER'S PHYSICAL RETAIL LOCATION(S) OR AT A PHYSICAL EXTENSION OF THE RETAILER'S RETAIL LOCATION AT A CONSUMER SHOW/CONVENTION. ALL OTHER CHANNELS AND METHODS OF SALE FOR ANA PRODUCT IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO SUB-DISTRIBUTION, SALES OVER THE INTERNET, AND MAIL ORDER.

FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT, ANY TRANSFER OR SALE OF ANA PRODUCTS TO SUBSIDIARIES OR AFFILIATE COMPANIES CONTROLLED, OR PARTIALLY CONTROLLED, BY RETAILER OR ANY OF RETAILERS' OWNERS AND/OR SHAREHOLDERS, ARE PROHIBITED HEREUNDER.

The first paragraph bans all online sales of ANA titles, a drastic change given that online game sales represent — well, it's actually not clear what percentage of the market they represent, which means that this change is drastic or not only depending on the buyers with whom you speak. (More on this later.)

This prohibition on online sales can even outlast the contract itself, as noted in the section on "Effects of Termination":

Quote:
3. All ANA Products purchased hereunder shall remain subject to Section IV hereof, which shall survive the termination of the Retailer's active Specialty Retailer Account status until such ANA Product is sold.

4. Except for Section VII.B.3, upon termination, this Specialty Retailer Policy is no longer binding on Retailer or ANA.

The second "Channel of Sale" paragraph is meant to address the issue of distributors that act as retailers — that is, distributors that purchase goods from Asmodee, then transfer them at little or no cost to a retailer owned in whole or in part by the distributor, then resold to end-users. Goods handled in this way can be sold profitably by distributor-retailers at discounted prices that actual retailers cannot possibly match.

One way that ANA will police this policy is hinted at in another section of the SRP: "Retailer understands that ANA Distributors must provide ANA with frequent detailed reports outlining Retailer's ANA Product purchases from the ANA Distributor." In other words, ANA will know which distributors sold which products to which buyers.

In a Q&A-style press release meant to clarify the above policy, ANA wrote the following:

Quote:
Q: I sell some Asmodee North America products in my store, and some on my website (or through another online marketplace). As an Asmodee Specialty Retailer, will I be able to continue to do all of this?
A: No, as a Specialty Retailer, you are limited to the channel of sale involving resale of Asmodee North America products to end-users only, by transaction in your physical retail stores only.

Q: I want to sell products from Asmodee North America online, how do I do this?
A: We will be very selective as to which online merchants will be authorized to sell our products. To qualify as an online merchant, you will need to contribute either significant scale, unique service, or other exceptional differentiation. Most online sales activities, including sales through third party websites, will not be authorized.


Q: I sub-distribute products to other businesses, what do I do?
A: Asmodee North America will not authorize sub-distribution of our products, unless by rare and unique exception.

What will happen to retailers that violate the SRP?

Quote:
A: We reserve the right to evaluate each violation on a case-by-case basis, and we will make a decision on how to respond based on severity, intent, scale, repeat behavior, and other factors. Generally speaking, a Specialty Retail account who knowingly violates the Specialty Retail Policy will be deactivated and therefore no longer have access to products from Asmodee North America.


I sent many questions about the ANA SRP to FFG's VP of Marketing Aaron Elliot: What constitutes an online merchant of "significant scale, unique service, or other exceptional differentiation"? Will retailers such as Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble be allowed to sell ANA product online in 2016? What about online retailers such as Funagain and CoolStuffInc? What negative effects does ANA perceive as being caused by online sales of its products? What changes does ANA hope to effect with this new sales policy? What percentage of sales comes from online outlets versus physical retail stores?

Elliot initially stated that Christian Petersen would answer these questions, but noted that all of FFG was taking the afternoon off to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens — no surprise there given how invested FFG is in the Star Wars brand! However, Elliott later sent the following note: "After carefully considering your questions, along with many of the questions we've seen from others, we have decided to issue a statement on Monday [Dec. 21, 2015] to clarify a few things from the initial release."

Thus, we'll have to wait for further clarification of who will be affected by the SRP and what ANA hopes to achieve by adopting this policy, but that hasn't stopped plenty of people from speculating on these topics, as evidenced by this BGG thread started by game retailer Rockin B' Games.

The game industry has gone down a similar road before in 2007 when Mayfair Games announced that it would allow retailers to discount its titles by no more than 20% from the MSRP. Many on BGG stated that this policy would lead to the demise of Mayfair, and I wrote a column on Boardgame News — the site I ran at the time — explaining why such claims were nonsense. (I'll republish this column in the near future since these types of arguments are already being made about Asmodee, and they're still equally ridiculous.)

The biggest issue to keep in mind is that despite BGG having a huge readership and user base, that base in no way represents the game market at large. Days of Wonder, for example, claims to have sold more than three million Ticket to Ride games, and while the publisher doesn't state whether that number relates to sales of the base game, all of the standalone games, or every Ticket to Ride-branded product, a glance through the BGG database shows that no more than 175,000 TtR items of any type are listed as owned by BGG users. Not every BGG user uses the collection function, of course, but I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I suggest that the hardcore, price-conscious BGG user base is a tiny fraction of Days of Wonder's entire sales base.

As Mayfair did nearly a decade ago, Asmodee is willing to bet that it will more than make up the difference of lost sales to price-conscious gamers through the support of physical game stores that will have more of an incentive to market and promote titles from ANA. At least that's my takeaway from the announcements; ideally we'll see in a few days how closely they match ANA's stated reasons for the policy change...
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Sat Dec 19, 2015 7:00 am
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Gen Con 2016 to Expand into Lucas Oil Stadium

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Gen Con 2015 was the largest game convention yet in Indianapolis, Indiana — 61,000+ unique attendees, 400+ exhibitors, and 14,000+ events — but that growth came at a cost, with multiple reports of first-time exhibitors being unable to reserve a booth for 2016 due to a lack of space in the exhibitor hall.

Why couldn't those exhibitors retain the same spaces they occupied at Gen Con 2015? Partly because Gen Con offers discounted space for first-timers in its "Entrepreneur's Alley", and since those exhibitors wouldn't be first-timers in 2016, they weren't eligible to be in "Entrepreneur's Alley". What's more, both those exhibitors and others who were exhibiting at Gen Con for only the first or second time had no seniority in Gen Con's booth-reservation system, which meant that they were shut out during the show when everyone else was reserving space for Gen Con 2016.

Now Gen Con has announced that for 2016 it will expand its events space into Lucas Oil Stadium, a multipurpose stadium on the block adjacent to the Indiana Convention Center where Gen Con takes place. Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Quote:
As part of this expansion, Gen Con will move several large events into the stadium's exhibition space, including the wildly popular True Dungeon events.

"Expansion into Lucas Oil Stadium is another exciting step forward for Gen Con," said Adrian Swartout, Gen Con CEO/Owner. "Gen Con has grown to host nearly 200,000 turnstile attendees, and it is evident that we have to accelerate our growth plans to meet attendee, exhibitor, and event organizer demand. Expansion into Lucas Oil Stadium allows Gen Con to keep offering more gaming, exhibition, and entertainment options each year."

A large-scale, life-size gaming experience, True Dungeon creates an immersive environment where players can solve puzzles and battle giant monsters. Attendees will have easy access to True Dungeon events through a corridor that directly connects the Indiana Convention Center to Lucas Oil Stadium. True Dungeon's 2016 event will feature an expedition through lava caverns and a mission across an underground city. Attendees can learn more here.

A separate announcement on the True Dungeon website added this plus for its new location:

Quote:
True Dungeon is moving to a state-of-the-art exhibit hall inside Lucas Oil Stadium where we can take advantage of a massive dividing wall to completely isolate the darker adventure area from the brighter lit (and more noisy) coaching area. The better control of light and sound "pollution" will greatly aid us in providing a better lit Coaching Room experience while keeping the adventure areas more dramatically lit.

Gen Con notes that in the coming months it will announce other events to be hosted in Lucas Oil Stadium. As for what will happen with the recovered space in the Convention Center, that will be revealed at a later date...
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Fri Dec 4, 2015 10:41 pm
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Links: Steve Jackson Games Looks Back to 2014 & Game Designers Complain About Things

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• Each year since 2003, Steve Jackson Games has released a "Report to the Stakeholders", and these reports always make for fascinating reading as they're one of the few windows offered into the financial doings of a decent-sized U.S. game publisher. In 2014, for example, SJG CEO Phil Reed reports $8.5 million in gross income, with "Zombie Dice alone account[ing] for 7.4% of our distribution sales for the year" and placing third in its list of products sold behind Munchkin Deluxe and Munchkin. (In past reports, sales of Munchkin and the many Munchkin spin-offs and accessories have accounted for three-quarters of SJG's sales, but a percentage for 2014 isn't given in this report.)

As for new projects coming from SJG in 2016, Reed writes, "we're already hard at work on games that will ship in mid-2016. The first quarter projects are completed and at print, and we're planning announcements for new Munchkin games, something new for Ogre, and the new edition of Car Wars" — that is, Car Wars Sixth Edition, with 2016 being the 35th anniversary of the game.

• On Games Precipice as part of its series on "early game structures", Alex Harkey writes about decisions, ranking Catan, Carcassonne, 7 Wonders and Hanabi on four "characteristics that can lead to interesting decisions": transparency, energy, metamorphosis, and perspective.

• In its game guide for the holiday season, Gear Patrol recommends "seven board games released in the last five years that have gotten great reviews, but aren't as financially successful as the old classics", which somewhat amusing given that all of the games released in the last five years, great reviews or not, aren't as financially successful as the old classics. Still, kudos to GP for spotlighting modern games on its site.

• On his blog, designer Bruno Faidutti objects to the use of the word "test" when others write about games that he's designed or co-designed, crediting his fellow designer Bruno Cathala with the following argument: "The games we publish work as we have tested them ourselves. Players can enjoy them or not, but it's not up to them to test them." In more detail:

Quote:
If we are indeed "game authors", and if a game is a cultural creation (we also say in French "œuvre de l'esprit", which is untranslatable because it's based on the ambiguity of the meaning of "esprit", which means both "spirit" and "brain"), then our games must be reviewed and not tested. The world "test" is disparaging for designers but also, and more importantly, for the games themselves, which are considered as mere technical items.

• For his part, designer/developer Seth Jaffee objects to people claiming that they "designed a game last week", stating that they did no such thing. An excerpt:

Quote:
People who say things like that are conflating "designing a game" with "conceiving a game". If you tell me you had a game idea last week, fine. If you tell me you started designing a game last week, we're good. If you tell me you wrote a preliminary rule set for a game last week, I'm with you. But when you talk about designing a game (in the past tense), it becomes much too easy to confuse "I started designing a game" with "I finished designing a game, and anyone who knows anything about designing things will tell you that those two are very, very different.
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Tue Dec 1, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Efficient Production, Forgotten Games & Better Terminology

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• On League of Gamemakers, designer/publisher Christian Strain gives examples of how to design "board games efficiently for cost". An excerpt:

Quote:
Every punchboard component for every game is different. That means that every time a game is printed, at least one new die-cut tool is made for the punchboard components. The trick here is to keep it to only one die-cut.

When I was getting Evil Intent printed, I didn't realize this. I created two different punchboard designs: one for money, and the other for markers. If I had taken the two different components and combined them on one design, then I would have only paid for one die-cut instead of two.

I thankfully learned this lesson when I printed Asking for Trobils, making all four punchboards the same cut.

When I open a game that contains inefficiently produced punchboards as described above, I can't help but view the producer as an amateur and become suspicious of the game in question.

• In a 2,300-year-old tomb in China, "archaeologists found a 14-face die made of animal tooth, 21 rectangular game pieces with numbers painted on them, and a broken tile which was once part of a game board", according to Owen Jarus on Live Science. The article notes that researchers suspect the pieces are from a game titled "bo" or "liubo" that hasn't been played in more than 1,500 years.

• Following the Carcassonne tournament at Spiel 2015, Hans im Glück donated €6,000 — fifty cents per point scored, rounded up to the nearest thousand — to the University of Duisburg-Essen for projects intended to help fund creative integration projects for refugees, such as language acquisition programs.

• Speaking of Spiel 2015, NPR ran a short story on the convention on its Morning Edition program in Oct. 2015, with Tiffany Ralph, a.k.a. TheOneTAR (and now Tiffany Caires following a recent marriage), providing a few details as to why gamers were headed to Essen, Germany.

• Designer Mark Major makes a case for dumping the terms "Euro" and "Ameritrash" in favor of objective and descriptive terms that better describe the elements within a game — although his descriptions focus almost entirely on the mechanisms of gameplay, which is reductionism of another sort.
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Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Don't Hate the Player or the Game, The Five Stages of Grief, and Eurogames on the Couch

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• Designer Kelsey Domeny explains why gamers should stop hating on Monopoly:

Quote:
I think we gamers and game designers can jump too quickly to scoffing at mainstream games. But we owe a lot to them. Monopoly really is a bridge from the world of no games to the world of hobby games. If we are to grow our industry, we must be willing to sit down with people who love Monopoly and enjoy a game of Monopoly with them. When we start where they are comfortable and show them we can have fun on their turf, they will be more likely to try our "gateway games" and enter into the world of clever design and cool mechanics.

Don't dismiss people because of what they play; invite them to your table because they do play. Perhaps by playing together you can find games that you all enjoy.

• Designer Nat Levan goes through the five stages of grief after receiving feedback — and a suggested list of extensive changes — from a prospective publisher:

Quote:
My first reaction was denial. They were completely wrong. I've been working on this for a year, and they've only played it for a few months. Never mind the fact that since there's a whole team playing, they've probably put in almost as much play time as I have, if not more.

• Alex Harkey at Games Precipice catalogs "early game structures" — resources, turn order, and player decisions — to explore positive and negative aspects of each, while giving examples of games that demonstrate these elements.

• When an article on board games opens with this phrase — "In a 1967 lecture, Michel Foucault stated:" — you can be forgiven for wondering whether you're being pranked, but if you're familiar with the Analog Game Studies blog, you probably expect such things by now.

In any case, Devin Wilson's article "The Eurogame as Heterotopia" makes a case for there being as much theme present in a Eurogame design as you care to discover, with such a design simultaneously being a tool through which you can see yourself, should you care to look. A long excerpt:

Quote:
Existing commentary on eurogames is most often written by enthusiasts and rarely by scholars, though academic interest seems to be on the rise. What we will see is that, though all can agree that thematic abstraction is a hallmark of eurogames, there is dissent among both enthusiasts and scholars about what to do in the face of that abstraction.

In the only extant monograph on the genre so far, Stewart Woods provides a history of eurogames that concludes that their thematic abstraction — while distinctive — is not of great interest.2 This postulation of eurogames' effective lack of theme is demonstrably aligned with the widespread enthusiast perspective that theme is often a negligible quality of games (even outside of wholly abstract games like Blokus). For example, popular board game reviewer Tom Vasel said of the eurogame Vasco da Gama, "Don't come into this looking for any kind of theme." But — far more so than with many eurogames — Vasco da Gama is very plainly about something real: its namesake is a particular historical figure and the gameplay embodies this person's biography in non-trivial ways. Yet Vasel forbids us from looking for theme in this game, insisting that there is nothing there.

Conversely, Will Robinson describes Vasco da Gama in far more situated terms, noting that the game's abstraction erases the violence of the game's thematic referent. Robinson looks at the virtuality of the game and subsequently directs his attention to the reality of the history depicted. He writes:

"Taking violent histories and turning them into resource management/worker-placement games for family audiences creates an ideological fairy tale. Vasco da Gama reinforces a clean and unproblematic interpretation of the Portuguese empire with each play."

Indeed, the question of "what is being abstracted out" is vital, particularly when the theme is so specifically historical and that history's violence undermines the supposedly non-violent interactions that characterize the genre. Ultimately, in Robinson's critique of Vasco da Gama, it's tempting to liken it to a Foucauldian mirror test at which Vasel fails by not seeing the reality of Vasco da Gama's real actions via Vasco da Gama's unreality.

Wilson goes on to discuss The Castles of Burgundy from his viewpoint as an "ethical vegan":

Quote:
Given Castles of Burgundy's abstraction (which is typical of the eurogame genre), these animals can be interpreted as companions, wards, ornaments, or consumable resources. Given my perspective, I see them as more like wards or perhaps companions. The game — like much great art, and like Settlers of Catan as described earlier — can function as a mirror: it shows me who I am in reality through the materiality of its unreality. In my case, I can clearly (and somewhat unexpectedly) see my real vegan convictions in the unreality of the game and its abstract and polysemic components.

My view of Castles of Burgundy, like Robinson's view of Vasco da Gama, is grounded in social critique. But the situation I find myself in when facing the abstraction of Castles of Burgundy allows me to fill in gaps and virtually "re-theme" the game — without any physical modifications or concrete house rules — according to my politics.
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Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Modern Games in the Media, Ideas for the Stealing, and Authors Honored by Dau Barcelona

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• Owen Duffy has been writing about board games for sometime on The Guardian, and one of his most recent articles covers the happenings at Spiel 2015 for a mainstream audience:

Quote:
For over three decades, the exhibition, known to attendees as Spiel, or simply as "Essen", after its host city, has brought tabletop game designers, publishers and legions of fans together to buy, sell, socialise and play. It's where the biggest companies in the business show off their latest releases, up-and-coming creators chase their big break and tens of thousands of gamers clamour to play the hottest new titles before they hit shop shelves.

• Duffy also pops up on VICE with "A Guide to the Groundbreaking Board Games You Should Be Playing Right Now", which uses the "Hey, comics aren't for kids anymore!" article model of the mid-1980s when Maus and The Dark Knight Returns were showing up in places like Rolling Stone.

• Stuck for inspiration for a game design? The League of Gamemakers invites you to "steal this game idea", with ten offerings that mostly resemble grab bags of game mechanisms instead of settings, although it's neat to see commenters jump in with ideas of their own. To add one of my own, imagine homeowners in a cul-de-sac competing to dress their residences with the most impressive light displays possible during the holiday season.

• On Slate, Steve Krause explains "The Fun of Betraying Your Friends", highlighting how Betrayal at House on the Hill introduced him to both modern games and modern gamers:

Quote:
[T]hat night at Jerry's house changed my perception of board games forever. A once childish and pat pastime transformed into a complex and nuanced subculture where thinking is valued and where creativity thrives...

I left the party that night not only with a brand new group of friends, but infatuated with the awesome power of board games. I told everyone I knew about that night with the dragon.

A decade later, and I'm still gaming. My collection grows every month, and I try to play games several times a week with as many people as I can. They've become more than just an excuse to get together, although my relationships have only strengthened through playing. Board games, the best of them, create experiences, and some of the best nights I've ever spent were sitting around a table with my friends and some cardboard.

• Designer Daniel Solis explains how a game loss by all in a non-cooperative game doesn't feel like a loss and why that might not be desirable:

Quote:
The tricky thing is that each player individually accumulates their own points so even if the "group loss" state occurs, if I have the most points, the game can't stop me from feeling like I won. This brought up a brief and very useful discussion about the essential social contracts surrounding games when players agree to certain game-states as being desirable and worth pursuing.

• Selections are underway for the fourth edition of the Dau Barcelona Awards, which are organized by the Institut de Cultura of Barcelona in Spain under the assumption that "gaming is a cultural activity and a first-order social and family element". Despite "Barcelona" being in the title, the awards are open to all game designers — or "authors" in their term. Three awards will be given: Best Author of 2015, Best New Author of 2015, and a Special Award to a lifetime of games, with this latter prize being awarded by the City Council of Barcelona.

How does one participate in the Dau Barcelona Awards? The press release notes that "authors will receive, from the 10th of November, a message from Dau Barcelona Awards through the BoardGameGeek messages system to invite them to participate in the votes". I spoke with Oriol Comas i Coma, Commissioner of the Dau Barcelona Games Festival at Spiel 2015, and he explained that they use the BGG database to contact authors due to its reach in the games industry and its use by authors themselves to market their games and provide support to players.

Oriol also mentioned that they're interested in creating better tools to extract data about game authors, such as their representative website or a connection between their username and game designer page, from the BGG database, and if you think this sounds like a project for you, be sure to get in touch with them.
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Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:00 pm
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Links: Dealing Death, Designing Responsibly & Dumping Ideas

W. Eric Martin
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Each week I receive hundreds of email messages about game announcements, distribution deals, rulebooks being available, and the latest blitz of Kickstarter campaigns — and to make matters worse, I typically send myself a few dozen email messages each week. Why? Because I'm surfing on my phone late at night or in a waiting room and want to forward myself a list of game release dates from a distributor, a game theory article that popped onto my RSS feeder, or (most often) new game listings in the BGG database. I see these things writ small and unusable on my phone, so I forward them to future Eric with the intention that he'll do something with them later.

That guy's a jerk, though, and he never gets through these messages at a decent pace, leaving them to compost in the inbox under yet more messages. In an effort to shovel out that material before it gets too ripe, here's a bunch of quick hits from slow Eric:

• Designer Tom Jolly catalogs different types of puzzle games on League of Gamemakers, pointing out the following about the relation between the two: "Note that in all the games listed so far, the foundation of the game is racing to find a solution to a single puzzle. This is the most common theme in puzzle-games and obviously the easiest to implement. You can take any solitaire puzzle, give a copy to two players, and say GO! Whoever solves it first wins the game!"

• In another article on that site, designer Seth Jaffee, developer for Tasty Minstrel Games whose most recent release is Eminent Domain: Microcosm, contemplates the designer's responsibility for good and bad play experiences. An excerpt:

Quote:
Sometimes, while playing a game, you find yourself in a very bad spot. Perhaps you find yourself bankrupt, dead, or otherwise out of the game altogether. Or worse, you're NOT out of the game, but you cannot make any progress! You sit there helpless watching your friends having a great time. Often the only way to get stuck in that bind is by making a bad play – a mistake, an ill-advised move, or possibly a calculated risk that doesn't pan out. Even if it's rare, whenever this happens, it usually means a miserable experience for the player.

As a designer there's a temptation to accept this dynamic in your own game, and to defend your design choice by saying "yeah, that would suck... don't do that." And to some extent maybe that's ok... The question is, what's that extent? Is it the designer's responsibility to ensure bad play doesn't ruin a player's enjoyment of a game?

Jaffee wants to take on that responsibility: "[O]ver time I've realized that, with such a wide range of players, these poor play situations will come up more often than I might have expected at first. And frankly the thought of any player having a bad experience – even if it's their own fault – is unacceptable to me."

For my part, I'm fine with a player getting tanked through their play behavior. In my first game of Age of Steam, which was possibly my first train game played, I created two networks on opposite ends of the board, so I couldn't deliver goods for enough income to dig me out of the debt hole. No one else had suggested that I create a single network because they either assumed I knew what I was doing or were happy to see me take myself out of the game. I learned and went on to play the game better in future sessions.

Along the same lines, I'm a fan of most Leo Colovini designs, and he often allows players to walk themselves into a corner. I still need to record a video about Hot Tin Roof, so perhaps I can dig into the topic more at that time.

• On Boing Boing, Ferdinando Buscema explains how and why he created a Memento Mori from decks of playing cards.

• On The Washington Post, Ana Swanson highlights "The mathematically proven winning strategy for 14 of the most popular games", with "popular" meaning well-known among the public at large. Don't expect Terra Mystica advice is all I'm saying.

• On his blog, Stinker designer Nick Bentley details his 100:10:1 method for game design. An excerpt:

Quote:
Step 1 – I quickly write 100 short game concepts in a notebook. In less than a week. Even in one day. I don't give much thought to quality; I include whatever comes to mind, even if it's dumb, incomplete or violates physical law (I do include good ideas as well). I keep spitting out ideas especially after I feel "spent".

Step 2 – Based on some selection criteria (which depend on my design goals and which I discuss below), I pick 10 of the 100 concepts and try to turn them into actual games. Just crude working versions. I work on all in parallel. This usually take six months to a year.

Step 3 – I pick the most promising game of the 10 I've developed and playtest+polish it till I'm sure I can't improve it. Then I make a list of its weaknesses and improve it more. Then I'm done.
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Tue Oct 13, 2015 1:00 pm
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Hasbro Partners with Indiegogo to Find a New Party Game

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I never thought that I would use the terms "Hasbro" and "crowdfunding" in the same sentence, but here we go: U.S. toy and game publisher Hasbro is partnering with crowdfunding site Indiegogo on a game design challenge to "find the next hit face-to-face party game". From a press release accompanying the announcement:

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"More people are gaming than ever before and the category has grown tremendously with the emergence of a passionate and talented community of game designers," said Brian Chapman, head of design and development at Hasbro. "We believe big game ideas can come from anywhere and the challenge with Indiegogo will be a new way for Hasbro to connect with the gaming community and discover a big new idea that we can hopefully help cultivate and bring to market."

The gist of the challenge is that game designers can submit their ideas through the Hasbro Gaming Lab until September 30, 2015. (The Hasbro Gaming Lab is described as "a team at Hasbro dedicated to connecting with the growing gaming community to discover and develop great new games".)




A team of judges selected by Hasbro will evaluate these submissions based on gameplay, viability, story/theme, and "potential for fun-ness", with the top five submissions being announced on October 30, 2015 and groomed in coordination with Hasbro for crowdfunding and fan-building projects on Indiegogo. These campaigns will end Dec. 1, 2015, with the designers keeping all of the funds raised, then Hasbro will announce a winner on Dec. 3, 2015. From the press release: "The grand prize winner selected by Hasbro will receive $10,000 and a trip to Hasbro headquarters to meet with and work with the game development team to help make his or her party game a reality." Woo, Pawtucket!

As you might expect the terms of submission include a lot of legal detail that make it clear that you still own the idea — "You retain ownership of all intellectual property rights in the Submission (as defined below) including any associated copyrights, trademarks, and/or patents that you may hold." — while covering Hasbro from any possible legal challenges in the future. An excerpt:

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You acknowledge and agree that each Submission will be made voluntarily and not in confidence. That means that neither your Submission nor anything in these Terms shall or may be deemed to place Hasbro in any relationship (including any confidential relationship) with you that is different from that of the general public with respect to the Submission. With respect to any characters, music, scripts, screenplays, storylines, and/or plot outlines (referenced herein collectively or separately as "Entertainment Materials"), you hereby waive any claim, action, and/or suit (collectively, "Claims") against Hasbro, and/or Hasbro’s affiliates, distributors, customers, vendors, promotional partners, and/or licensees, and/or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, and/or assigns, relating to any alleged use or misappropriation by Hasbro of any Submission. With respect to any aspects of any Submission other than Entertainment Materials, including but not limited to any toy, game, puzzle, or other product concepts, ideas, innovations, modifications, or improvements disclosed to Hasbro as part of the Submission, you hereby waive and forever discharge and release Hasbro, its affiliates, vendors, promotional partners, distributors, customers, and licensees, and their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, and assigns, from and against, any and all Claims relating to any alleged use or misappropriation by Hasbro of such aspects of any Submission.

Independent Development. Without limiting Hasbro's rights to utilize nonconfidential materials, except insofar as that use may constitute an actionable violation of intellectual property rights, you also acknowledge and understand that Hasbro may receive information or concepts from others that may be similar to the Submission, or may itself be developing or in the future develop information or concepts similar to the Submission, without reference to or use of the Submission. Nothing in these Terms shall be construed as a representation or inference that Hasbro will refrain from such separate concept development.

Warranty. By entering the Challenge, you warrant and represent that the your Submission is your own original work created by you, has not been previously published, has not won a previous prize or award, that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the entry and that the entry submitted by you does not violate any law, regulation or third-party right, including but not limited to copyright, trademark right, or rights of, publicity and/or privacy. Please understand that submitting an entry that is copyrighted by another individual, or otherwise subject to the rights of another individual, will make you responsible for any legal action the legal rights holder might take against you. Likewise, you agree to indemnify Hasbro against any Claims made by individuals claiming ownership of or rights in the entry who may contest Hasbro's right to use the entry in accordance with the terms of these Terms.
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Fri Aug 28, 2015 4:00 pm
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Links: Modern Fog, Busted Asylum & Kickstarting Success

W. Eric Martin
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• On statistics site FiveThirtyEight, Oliver Roeder presented an overview of Kickstarter's effect on the board game industry, with the title leading the conclusion: "Crowdfunding Is Driving A $196 Million Board Game Renaissance". An excerpt:

Quote:
And now there are more games being made than ever. The crowdfunding website Kickstarter has become the go-to place to finance a passion board game project. "The barrier to entry is much lower, especially with board games," Mach said. "All you need is a pencil and paper."

• Christopher Chabris continues to write about games in The Wall Street Journal, with his latest article discussing modern war games and their efforts to "capture the 'fog of war'". As with earlier WSJ articles, this article is behind a paywall, so you'll need to pay, read it a library, or wait for it to turn up in Google searches (although I might now have a legit read-through link in place).

• The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, which oversees the Origins Awards at the annual Origins Game Fair, has streamlined its award categories from nine to seven: Board Games; Card Games (includes dice and deck-building games); Collectibles (all games with a collectible component); Role-Playing Games; Family Games; Game Accessories; and Miniatures. An excerpt from the press release announcing this change:

Quote:
"Three years ago we set out on a path to enhance the Origins Awards process," said John Ward, Executive Director of GAMA and the AAGAD Chair, "Now we are at the end of that process and we will begin an annual review of the Awards. This step moves the awards forward and the new categories better reflect today's market and the industry as a whole."

• The nominees for the International Gamers Awards were announced in mid-August 2015, with a dozen games making the initial cut in the multi-player category. The nominees are:

General Strategy Games: Multi-Player Category

AquaSphere
Deus
Elysium
Five Tribes
Hyperborea
Kraftwagen
La Granja
Orléans
Panamax
Quartermaster General
Roll for the Galaxy
The Voyages of Marco Polo

General Strategy Games: Two-Player Category

Baseball Highlights: 2045
Fields of Arle
Patchwork
Star Realms
Star Wars: Armada
Wir Sind das Volk!

The IGA members, located throughout Europe and North America, plan to announce the winners in the September/October time frame. (Annual disclosure: I'm a member of the IGA, but do not vote.)

• In Washington state in the U.S., King County Superior Court Commissioner Henry Judson has ordered (PDF) that Altius Management — which ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 for Asylum playing cards and collected more than $25,000 — to pay $54,851 in penalties, court costs, and restitution to KS backers in Washington due to Altius not following through on its promises. Here's part of a press release about the order from the Washington State Attorney General:

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The court ordered a total of $668 in restitution for the 31 Washington state backers, $31,000 in civil penalties for violating the state Consumer Protection Act ($1,000 per violation), and $23,183 to cover the costs and fees involved in bringing the case.

"Washington state will not tolerate crowdfunding theft," said Ferguson. "If you accept money from consumers, and don't follow through on your obligations, my office will hold you accountable."


Or printed, for that matter
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Sat Aug 22, 2015 2:00 pm
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Plaid Hat Games Bought by F2Z Entertainment

W. Eric Martin
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During set-up day at Gen Con 2015, Canadian company F2Z Entertainment — parent company of Z-Man Games, Filosofia Éditions and Pretzel Games — announced that it had purchased U.S. publisher Plaid Hat Games.

Plaid Hat Games will continue to operate as a design and development studio, with the newly formed F2Z USA Corp. managing logistics, sales and marketing. In a press release announcing the deal, PHG studio manager Colby Dauch wrote, "Plaid Hat Games has always put a strong focus on the design and development process of making board games and the skill set of the team at Plaid Hat Games reflects that focus. As Plaid Hat Games has grown, the other aspects of the board game publishing business have devoured more and more of the team’s time and attention. This acquisition by F2Z Entertainment allows the Plaid Hat Games’ team to turn their attention back to what they do best..."

The press release noted that "[s]ome titles currently in the Plaid Hat Games catalog will also be gradually integrated into the F2Z Digital Media branch". F2Z Entertainment has an in-house digital media division responsible for its Pandemic iOS app, and at Gen Con 2015 F2Z marketing and communication manager Lyne Bouthillette told me that the digital media group is involved with additional work on Pandemic right now — more news on that from the iOS Board Games blog at a future date — but after that certain PHG titles might be good candidates for a digital transformation.

Starting in 2016, all titles from Plaid Hat Games will be released in French by Filosofia. (Summoner Wars and Mice and Mystics have previously appeared in French editions from Filosofia, but no other PHG titles have done so.) Bouthillette told me that F2Z is also working directly in-house to create simultaneous releases in both German and Dutch for titles from Z-Man Games and Plaid Hat Games, based on the strength of those two markets worldwide compared to other countries.
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Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:31 am
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