Archive for Grizzled Veteran of the Gravy Wars
I am a maker of things. I enjoy transmuting raw materials into finished products. I like the design phase, the "figuring out how to make it" phase, the "get my hands dirty and craft some stuff" phase, the "using it for its intended purpose" phase, the "showing it off to my friends phase", and even the "have a better idea and make a whole new one" phase. I love collaborating with others as well as working alone, and I love sharing, debating, discussing and tweaking my ideas with others. I have several projects posted on Instructables.com, and I love the community of geeks on that site just as much as the community of geeks here (although for different reasons).
One topic I've always been a little leery about discussing on this site is the idea of crafting personal copies of commercial games. I know it's a hot button for many people, and I've seen members get totally dogpiled for bringing it up, followed by retaliatory dogpiling of the first dogpilers. So for that reason, I've shied away from bringing it up myself.
I was recently reading a session report posted by the always entertaining
about a game called Little Angels and the Fruit of the Spirit that he picked up in a thrift store. For those who are not familiar wth the game, it is a Christian-themed game for young children, which involves moving from start to finish along a colorful path which somehow involves "Fruits of the Spirit", which I gather are a Bible reference of some kind.
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
It is also Candy Land. Now, let's be clear about this. It is not "similar to" Candy Land, or "using a mechanic from" Candy Land. Is is the same game, with only cosmetic differences and one omitted mechanic which has a minimal impact on gameplay.
Players move their pawns along a winding track composed of six different colors by drawing cards with a colored square on them and moving their piece to the next space of that color. The cards may also have two colored squares, indicating that the player moves forward two spaces, or an icon representing a Fruit of the Spirit, which requires the player to move their pawn to that icon's space on the board, whether it is forward or backwards along the track. There are also two shortcuts which allow players to skip sections of the track if they land on the correct spaces.
Other than theme, the only differences between Little Angels and Candy Land are that Candy Land's track is twelve spaces longer, and Little Angels omits the three spaces that "stick" a pawn in place until a certain color card is drawn. These sticky spaces are replaced with Fruit of the Spirit icons. That's it.
So... what does this have to do with me and my urge to make things? Well, I figured that if a Christian publisher can legally rip off Candy Land, slap on a retheme and sell multiple copies of it for profit, then my little one-of-a-kind, for-personal-use-only handmade copy of Thunder Road must be perfectly fine, right?
Based on the previously mentioned threads, there are many people who would argue that my personal Thunder Road is most definitely not OK, and they are, of course, welcome to hold that opinion. I have long since come to the conclusion that arguing about it is pointless, because the two sides are arguing two different things. To vastly oversimplify, those in favor of homebrewing games are primarily concerned with the legality of the issue, and those opposed are primarily concerned with the ethics/morality of the issue.
It's like arguing about cake vs. pie. Some people like cake better and some people like pie better, because they just do. Telling a pie lover that "cake is better because I believe it is" will not change a single thing, and will just irritate the pie lover. Responding that "pie is perfectly fine, because pie is not illegal" will not inspire the cake lover to go out and eat a big slice of apple pie.
So, now that we've preemptively gotten all of the invective and dogpiling out of the way, we finally come to my question on the topic: Why is there such vocal opposition when a BGG user posts about making a homebrewed game for personal use, but there is no visible opposition at all to Little Angels ripping off Candyland for profit? Or for that matter, where's the letter-writing campaign to prevent Fundex from distributing On The Bubble, which is a transparent copy of Trouble? Or any of the countless other discount-store knockoffs of mass-market games which differ from the original games only in name and component quality? What about all of the other religious rethemes of games?
I would think that a single gamer making a single copy for personal use would be less offensive than a corporation making multple copies for sale, but the single gamer gets browbeat, while the corporation gets their game posted to the DB as an alternate version, with links and pictures, and no invective more vehement that "Meh. This is a knockoff of (original game) and the components suck", if even that.
Does that seem backwards to anyone else besides me?
Edited to change the title and correct a couple of typos. Previously posted as Crimes Against Plastic II: Electric Boogaloo - Oh, The Humanity
A little background about Trash: I am a thrifter. I have been a thrifter for most of my life. Over the past 30 or so years, I have thrifted practically every kind of thing that can be thrifted: costume pieces, casual and work clothes, furniture, housewares, sporting goods, books, small electronics, props, houseparts, toys and boardgames. I live for the thrill of the hunt, and I crave the sweet release of endorphins when a major find is made. I have never met a yard sale, consignment shop, flea market, thrift store, or curbside pile of junk that I didn't like. Until today, that is.
A little background about The Hellmouth (aka Statesboro, GA): We have one Goodwill, and two privately owned thrift/consignment shops which are never open and only ever carry church dresses for women in their 70's anyway. The boardgame thrifting here is not good. For a veteran thrifter like myself, living in The Hellmouth can be very frustrating sometimes. However, now and then a decent game can be found, even here. Not great games, and certainly not many "gamer's games" ever, but decent. I hit the Goodwill four or five times a week, and sometimes I find something worth picking up.
A couple of weeks ago, my Goodwill took down their toy area in favor of more clothes racks. I was a little disappointed, but since the boardgames are always shelved with the books, I figured it was no big deal. Then I thought about it a little more, and I started to wonder what they were going to do with all the toys that got donated. I hoped that they wouldn't trash them. Maybe they'd send the toys to the nearest Goodwill Outlet, wherever that is. Then I began to wonder whether the employees would make a distinction between actual toys and my beloved plastic-heavy Ameritrash games. You see where this is going.
In spite of my growing unease, by sheer force of will I managed to restrain myself from walking around to the back of the store and checking the dumpster. As much as I wanted to know, I didn't want to know, you know? Today that changed.
I was checking the shelves and passing on the umpteenth copy of Trivial Pursuit - Genus Edition, Wheel of Fortune, 2nd edition, and the DVD-enabled SNL Trivial Pursuit when my wife called. Since I didn't want to be that guy who stands in the store shouting into his cell phone (I hate that guy), I stepped outside to take the call. As I chatted with my wife, I strolled aimlessly around the building, where I got my first look at the enormous compactor/baler that lives next to the loading dock. And that's all she wrote. My resolve melted like a Peep in the microwave. I had to look inside.
As soon as my phone call ended, I went and got a better look. The machine was locked up tight, but there was a gap between the compactor itself and the chute coming out of the Goodwill building. I peered into the compactor through the gap, and sure enough, perched on top of an old nylon duffel bag and a ruptured Hefty bag full of mangy stuffed animals, there was a box I recognized. It was Jenga. I resolved to rescue it. I'm not a huge Jenga fan, but it would make a good story for the thrift guild geeklist, and maybe I could use it to play Dread, or make a dice tower or something.
Luckily, the gap was just big enough to get my arm inside, and the Jenga box was close enough to reach with the tips of my fingers. Unluckily, the bottom flap of the box was not sealed, and as soon as I lifted the box up from its Hefty bag nest, all of the blocks clattered to the floor of the compactor, out of my reach.
Oh, well. No big loss, right? I was getting ready to walk away, when something made me look inside one more time. I squinted into the darkness, and that's when I saw it. A brown, roughly triangular plastic shape with hexagonal lines embossed into it. I was looking at the back of a Heroscape terrain piece. One of the large ones. Then I saw another one, and another. Then some smaller terrain became visible, and one turn marker. And barely visible behind an old curling iron, one single sparkly blue water tile. And they were all way too far away to grab.
I must have walked around and around the compactor fifty times, trying to figure out how to get it open. I checked the toolbox in my truck to see if there was anything I could snag the pieces with. I even considered going back into the Goodwill and buying something, anything that I could use to rescue the poor bits.
Then I got into my truck and drove home.
I was absolutely appalled. There were at least two perfectly good games in that compactor waiting to be destroyed, simply because the Goodwill decided not to dedicate any shelf space to "toys". One of the games is now out of print, and appreciating in value every day. And by this time tomorrow, it'll be a pile of brown plastic splinters embedded in a block of trash. It's a damn shame.
So, from here on out if I have games that I don't want to keep for some reason, I may give them away to friends, or to someone on the "Thrifting for you" geeklist, or I may seed them in my local coffeehouse, or part them out to others who need replacement bits. But I will never donate a game to a thrift store again.
Recently, I decided that I wanted to paint a bunch of plastic minis. The problem with this is that I am not a mini painter. I understand some of the techniques that skilled painters use, but I am not a skilled painter myself. I am also currently unemployed, and can't justify spending big bucks on a million tiny jars of specialty paint.
I debated this with myself pretty extensively before coming to my decision, because I didn't want to ruin my games. "Trash, you don’t know what you’re doing", I told myself. "You’ll destroy the collectable/resale/trade value!" "They’re gonna look like crap!" On the other hand, my nine-year-old son is starting to really get into gaming, and he likes painted minis.
I finally decided that: a) not knowing what I’m doing has never slowed me down before; b) although I do enjoy collecting games, I am not a Game Collector, I’m a game player; and c) we would get more enjoyment from playing a badly painted copy of Hero Quest or Dragon Strike than we would from playing one with raw plastic minis, even if the paint job did look like crap. Therefore, those games would get more table time than they would otherwise. So I threw caution to the wind, gathered up my meager supplies, and started slapping paint onto plastic.
This is the part where all the experienced painters out there should stop reading, or risk a Sanity Check. You Have Been Warned.
To get started, instead of buying "real" plastic primer for miniatures, I basecoated all the figures with flat black Krylon Fusion, because I had some already. That’s right, regular old Fusion from the Walmart. $3.75 for a big can, except that mine was left over from another project, so: Free. Noooooooo!!!!! Sacrilege!!!*
Next, instead of taking out a home equity loan and buying real miniatures paints in the itty bitty jars from my FLGS, I used regular cheap acrylic craft paints from Hobby Lobby, because I already had some. You know, the kind that come in 2 oz plastic bottles for $0.99? Those ones. AHHHHH!!!! THE HORROR!!!!*
Finally, when I was done, I gave everything a good hosing down with some store brand, not-for-plastic flat spray polyurethane, because I already had some. Make it stop... make it stop...*
And you know what? They look fine. Not professional by any stretch of the imagination, not even close, but fine. Sure, they’re a little bit blotchy in places, and the metallics aren’t as bright as they should be, and the detailing is a little haphazard, and the color palette is sort of limited. But even taking all of that into account, they’re still way, way better than the raw plastic, if I do say so myself.
Last night my son and I played his first Dragon Strike scenario, and the first thing he said as I opened the box to set up the board was "Dad, these figures look AWESOME!" I can think of no higher praise.
*Reactions of hypothetical experienced miniatures painters have been simulated, and may not represent any actual reaction by any actual person. But I bet they do.
EDIT: Added a couple of pictures.