Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk
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Homage of Steam

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
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Recently, as you will have noticed (), I have been discussing and (lets not be coy about this) promoting my latest venture Paperclip Railways (PCR) by various means: a designer diary, reports of play-tests and other bits and pieces. While the feedback has been generally positive, I have received a number of second-hand reports of 'muttering' in the area of PCRs supposed over-similarity to String Railway despite everything that I have (publicly) jotted around the subject!

Yesterday I received a Geekmail that explicitly (thank-you for not being passive-aggressive!) asked the following question:

"If you don't mind me asking, how is Paperclip Railways not an infringement on String Railways?"

Well, I do mind you asking a bit, but I will continue to fight for your right to do so.

Now I may be paddling close to troll-laden waters in saying this, but in a world where Dominion, Thunderstone and Ascension: Deckbuilding Game co-exist happily without even the pebble of acrimony being lobbed between them, how is it appropriate to take a swipe at the small guys?

Was Race for the Galaxy greeted with cries of '..but it's just San Juan in Space!' and Tom Lehman derided for it? Would it be churlish to point out the similarity of PitchCar and RoadZters? Equally, I must've missed the meeting when FITS and Blokus were called out as directly-related following a DNA test! And how about every worker-placement product? And the 100 million 'little card games' that are basically 60 cards in 6 colours with the numbers 1 thru 10 printed in the corner? etc etc ad infinitum.

Is the development of an idea just plain ol' copying?

Of course, PCR and SR have the same theme (railways - quite a popular theme, though) and, yes, they both make use of unusual components to represent their theme (wooden cubes as cloth, wood and stone ahoy!). I take accusations, and even 'innocent queries', of plagiarism very much to heart - it is not my intent to (nor do I) 'rip off' other peoples hard work. Myself, and fellow Surprised Stare-r Alan Paull, are pretty boringly-repetitive about wanting to design games with a twist - something new or something taking a pleasing twist on the familiar (ah, maybe there's the rub?)...

So, here's a brief summary of PCR vs String Railway and why it's NOT any kind of infringement / theft / copying etc:

[1] SR is a light, 20 minute game; PCR is designed to be heavier.

[2] SR uses strings of fixed length for placement; PCR gives you 60 paperclips and it's up to you, your 'plan' (and your current station location) to decide how long or short those placements are

[3] There is no 'hand of cards' to manipulate, manage and/or combo off of in SR; in PCR, hand-management is key (you can't build without cards, find the right combinations and interactions between stations etc)

[4] Strings are 'free' to place; PCR demands that you 'buy' your links

[5] SR scoring is immediately after you have placed your string; PCR has in- and end-game scoring

[6] PCR stations are quirkily-named (did someone just say Qwirkle?) and it has a pun-tastic tag-line

[7] There are almost 100 station cards in PCR with circa 50 unique effects and abilities between them

[8] SR offers ONE action available in your turn (draw then play); PCR offers a choice from two (draw OR play)

[9] PCR stations don't have that cute, traveling mouse on them (at least, not yet)

I will concede, to all of you in the whispering gallery, that - yes - without having seen and played String Railway, Paperclip Railways would not exist today. As I have credited in the rulebook, it was 'inspired by' Mr Hayashi's diversion and set me thinking in a particular direction. This is, of course, no more 'theft' or 'infringement' than admiring the auction mechanic in Amun-Re and building it into League of Six, or re-using the 'pick up and deliver a cube' mechanic in every railway game since 2000 and so-bloomin'-on.

Thus, I present my defence.

Next Week: Comic Sans - The Much-maligned Font (ducks whistle)
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