Q Rants About....

We'll see how long this holds my interest. I've long-debated putting together a couple of blogs for reviews and what not, just never bothered to find the time (much like my circle's desire to start a playthrough video group). Anyhow, what this is: A blog by which I will go off about...anything I like related to games and gaming. Who: As those who know me can attest, I'm a very blunt, brutally honest bloke who's not afraid to be assertive, without actually being an "alpha" type. I call BS when I see it, and I don't filter my opinions based upon whether it might offend someone with thin skin. I also, however, try to avoid talking out of my ass and always endeavour to make sure I back up a viewpoint with a cogent and reasoned logic, no matter how cold that logic is. I'll likely endeavour to link things here into reviews for games (which I must start doing..) Why this is: Because one of my frustrations is how passive a lot of people in this hobby I love so much are. Passive aggressive, passively passive, you name it. I frequently lament that there's no spot where there's an "anything goes" safe zone where there's no having to tiptoe around delicate sensibilities - where we can go 12 rounds, then tip back a pint, say good show, and be the better for it. The where and how are both obvious; the when too variable dependent to state with exactitude. A Q&A with...myself! But ranting...isn't that negative? -Without dark, there can be no light. Beyond that, it is my hope that when going talking about one thing that I'm not really down with, it will provide opportunity to go on about things that I feel are quite positive. I like dialogue. Balance in all things, young padawan. I'm offended! Your cold logic chills me to my core, robot! -There's an "X" in the upper right hand corner you can click at any time. I promise you I won't be offended - you can be offended for both of us. How many things can you *really* rant about? -Ninja, please - Lewis Black has been doing it for a couple decades now. Spoiler alert: He's definitely funnier than I am. Which is why he'll charge you 80 bucks and this is free. Do you take requests? -As long as the request isn't Stairway. No Stairway.

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Q Rants About the FLGS you own - and why you're probably a horrible owner who is doing it wrong

Quintious .
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Earlier today, a post appeared within the BGG community from a FLGS owner in Maryland. The entirety of this post was to state how disheartened and saddened she gets every time she sees somebody post an Amazon or Target deal. She pointed out that owning a store is a lot of work, that she doesn't make much, and that she needs your money more than Target or Amazon does....therefore, you should buy from her and not these other companies. This is the meat of her plea, but she did fill it with commentary about customer service, bulk buying power, paying bills, etc. to the point that the original point she was trying to make had been obfuscated.

There was nothing about her post in particular that was particularly noteworthy - but rather how often I see this type of argument presented. Let's talk about you, shall we?

A harsh truth:


Let's just get one thing out of the way right out of the gate: if you are a (F)LGS owner, your business model is likely bad, the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of it being your fault, and if you fail to recognise and/or adapt your business model to not be bad, nobody should feel sad when you fail.

Let's clear up a huge misconception:

There's an old adage that states "Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life". A romantic sentiment that happens to be patently false. First, everything in life is work. Second, it's been my observation that most of you THINK that the job you've chosen is to sell board games and share your hobby; allow me to disabuse you of that notion. What you have ACTUALLY chosen as your job is "business owner". And being a business owner is work - far more work, in fact, than the vast majority of jobs out there.

Let's examine some market numbers:

Let's lead by stating I'm only really talking about American game stores. If you look at global statistics, Germany is by far the country with the most per-capita fans of cardboard, with over 15% of Germans stating that they are avid analog gamers. France, Spain, Italy, and England also boast strong ratios of gamers. Their market is not your market. In the United States, 1% of the population is what could be termed one. Given current growth projections of the hobby in the US, it is anticipated that number could grow to as high as 3% by 2025 and, if you talk to a talented actuary who is interested in the hobby (and I have), you will hear that one day in excess of 7% of the population could get into the hobby before it would reach a point termed fully saturated. Globally, the board game market is expanding at a rate of 15% annually, and has been for some time, but growth markets like Brazil and Australia account for a larger surge than most.

How about we take a look at your numbers specifically?


This is simple: You sell board games and board game accessories. Your wholesale rate is approximately 42% off MSRP due to the volume (or lack thereof) you buy. That's how much you can earn. Your labour overhead should be right around 18%. You're likely giving up 17% to your actual location and the various utilities. You're probably spending 2% in what would be termed as "other". Which means that if everything falls into line, you have a potential return of about 5%. You might be hitting that number. Maybe. Your margins are razor thin. After Uncle Sam takes a big old bite out of your ass, you might have enough to buy a frozen burrito from 7-11. God help you if you live in a city where they're actually pondering raising the minimum wage to $15, cause if they do, you're fucked.


"Add these 2 numbers, carry the 1....that's 3.3 million people! I'm gonna be rich!"


3.3 million (give or take) isn't nothin', but let's keep this in perspective: That's roughly the population of Cleveland, and they're scattered all over the 4th largest country in the world by land mass. There are but 1.2 million (thereabouts) registered BGG users GLOBALLY, which means the amount of what we would term "sophisticated gamers" (your target market) are way more finite. Cleveland hasn't won a professional championship since 1964. Oh, and 186 million Americans play video games. Keep your shit in perspective.

Let's look at your direct competition, shall we?

Let's focus on the ones you, as a FLGS owner, most frequently complain about:

Amazon.com is a publicly traded company with a market cap of almost 260 billion dollars, employs just shy of 110,000 people, and has by most accounts the most comprehensive big data analytic engine in the history of the world. There's some guy sitting at his desk in Lake Union right now helping optimize their algorithms who made more in the last 3 months than your entire store has grossed in a year.

Target Corporation is one of the largest big box retail services companies on Earth, with a market cap of over 50 billion dollars. They have just shy of 1,800 stores scattered around the US, and provide a one-stop shopping experience to potential customers.

Barnes & Noble is worth over 900 million dollars and have just under 700 stores around the country. Oh, and they've usually got a Starbuck's located inside of them to drive foot traffic.

They are GIANTS.

You, on the other hand...

Likely have between 5 and 8 employees, about 1,500 square foot of space, just got a fancy new Culligan water dispenser to drive foot traffic and - if you're lucky - you're tucked in next to a grocery store, or maybe a froyo shop that is exceedingly popular with adolescent Asian girls and middle aged women in yoga pants.

You...are a gnat .

So that's why I suck? Because I'm small? Screw you, man!


No, those are just facts. I still haven't told you why you suck.

Let's get to it, shall we?

Time to face the reality: You're a small business in a niche market going up against companies that could easily starve you out the moment they decide they want to take what share of the local market you own, and not even have to mention the loss incurred on their quarterly earnings statements to do it. You aren't the first industry, and you certainly won't be the last. Wishing them to simply go away, whilst undoubtedly popular with your stereotypical meek hobbyist that likes to close their eyes and pretend confrontation can be avoided simply by making yourself invisible, is unlikely to yield the desired result. This is your reality. You need to accept it. Hell, you need to embrace it. This is the framework by which you must operate. There's a concept called the Wal-Mart doctrine at play here. Basically it's the phenomena of a big company setting up shop near small businesses, and basically laying waste to all the mom-and-pop setups around them until the consumer has little choice but to shop at the bigger place. You're fighting that. You, like many other small businesses in many other industries, CAN be successful, but you have to adapt to the market, be agile, and be creative in how you're going to score your points. And, most importantly, you have to rid yourself of this romantic notion that what you're doing is plying your hobby. You're running a god damned business. Act like it.

Your ideas are bad, and you should feel bad (or "this is why you suck")

Aside from the fact that many of you are employing prayer to whatever invisible sky fairy you believe might listen as a means to make your competition leave you unimpeded, you are probably shockingly bad at a number of fundamental business concepts. I've already talked about some above (the failure to recognise your business is one), but let's add to it some other things you're doing wrong as you try to stay afloat or expand:

-You likely haven't done a SWOT analysis. Your business plan - if you're one of the rare owners who has actually taken the time to write one out - is likely filled with too much emotion and not enough logic. It's very likely that, not only have you not attended any courses on business ownership, but you haven't even bought a book on it. And if you did, it's probably collecting dust somewhere, probably in your garage sale pile. You haven't leveraged any of the support resources available to you, nor properly networked with people outside your industry (Chamber of Commerce, SBDC, Women's League, et al).

-You think passion will carry you. A huge percentage of people into this hobby are passive, wishy-washy dreamers. You're under this misconception that simply knowing more about the product you're selling will save you the day. Again, you're forgetting your direct competitors are larger, well-funded, and less cost-sensitive enterprises.

-You suck at marketing. 1% of the population plays board games. That means 99% do not, unless you live in a nerd utopia like Seattle. What are you doing to get that customer base? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but warmly smiling at and saying hello to the occasional one that accidentally stumbles into your store thinking it's a toy shoppe where they can get an RC BB8 robot or who just wants to ask where the froyo place is so she can treat herself after that hot yoga session doesn't count.

-You aren't price competitive. This is, frankly, your biggest problem. I see far too many FLGS's that cannot acknowledge that price matters. There's a store in my area (well, there are a lot of them, but one in particular stands out) that is VERY F-riendly...but everything in their store is either at MSRP or above MSRP (not infrequently in excess of $20 over MSRP). Board gamers are, first and foremost, price sensitive - this is my politically correct way of saying most of them are cheap. If your business model involves telling one that they have a couple of options: They can either give your competition 39 dollars for a game w/ a $70 MSRP....or they can buy it from you for $70, plus sales tax (so let's call it 77), and it's the exact same game? Then your business model is already fundamentally flawed. Your consumer is going to do the math and think to themselves "Why give this guy this cash for 1 game, when I can basically buy TWO from CSI?" You will lose that internal debate most of the time. This is where the *vast* majority of you completely run aground.

-You actually think you'll win with service. As people from the South say, "Awww, bless your heart". Look, great customer service is, well, great. And if you were running a massage parlour or a maid service or a tour company, you might even be able to pull this off. But you aren't in a service industry - you're in retail. See above - price is king. Great customer service can buy you a little bit of padding (combined with the offer of instant gratification, I'd say it's probably worth roughly $5 in premium). Your deep knowledge of board games isn't going to appreciably get you further. Remember that 3.3 million number above? BGG, the bible of the hobby, has approximately 1.2 million users globally. Which means your customer base falls into two categories: the unsophisticated "gamers"; those who aren't members here, who will likely buy their game at Target anyways but might stumble in to your store...by which you're going to spend 20 minutes telling them about all the other games you have, and they're going to ask for a copy of Catan when you're done talking, or those who are already knowledgeable and don't need your recommendations and couldn't care less about your knowledge - they just want what they want at the best price. Great service will not save you the day. The former represents a small percentage of revenue, because their collection will be "filled" when they have 3 games. The latter demands value.

-You think the consumer owes you something. You're running a business. It's important to you. It's your baby. You want to see it thrive. You publicly state that it bothers you that other consumers are promoting deals at locations that are not your store (i.e. Amazon). You think the customer should, in spite of your higher price, still give you money. You fail one of the core tenets of capitalism. The consumer doesn't owe you SHIT. The consumer probably doesn't really care if your place stays afloat or not - the consumer has his/her own problems to worry about, and their own family to feed. The consumer can't be worrying about you, too. You're not a public works project. The onus is on YOU to entice the CONSUMER to give you their money. You are owed precisely nothing. As Willy Wonka was fond of saying, "good DAY, sir!". Backhandedly admonishing people for promoting a company that, as you say "doesn't need your advertising for them" is not a successful maneuver.

-Your vendors hate you. There's a reason why they sell as much shit as they can on Kickstarter before they take money from you - they want as many of your customers as they can get for themselves before they try to leave you the scraps. Your suppliers are working against you, and yes, it's a conspiracy against you. Oh, your vendors are also some of the worst businesspeople in the world, and that's your fucking problem (and a whole other rant).

-You don't maintain control of your own situation. OK, so you've resorted to pleading with the masses to promote you and not the other guy. By trying to appeal to the customer's sense of empathy, you are essentially stating you're leaving your fate up to others (aka "Jesus take the wheel"). That type of passive spinelessness is not the path to success. You're saying you're too weak a leader to take charge of your situation.

-You don't learn from your more successful peers. There are proven models out there. Very few of them involve focusing on selling board games. You've sunk HOW much into this business? And yet you're too cheap to spend 250 bucks on a plane ticket to go visit a shining beacon in your niche industry, buy the owner dinner, and pick their brain for a couple of hours to figure out what their secret sauce is? Really? You're a fucking moron if you aren't doing this. There was a movie about 15 years ago called 'Comic Book Villains'. It was a profoundly horrible dumpster fire of cinema by any objective measure, and I absolutely do not recommend any of you watch it, but it had one great takeaway. You had one comic book owner (let's call him, you) who knew everything there was to know about the niche...and he was barely keeping afloat. Then there was another guy across town who didn't know dick about comics, but he understood the business of business, and he was making money hand over fist because he was selling action figures and Yu Gi Oh cards and anything else that would put green paper in his pocket.

-You're stubborn, and refuse to adapt. See above. Business moves at the speed of business. You need to move with it. If you're just staying afloat or thereabouts, then you've got the same problem the stereotypical comic book shoppe had in the mid-late 90's when the market became oversaturated. Most of them folded. There is history to learn from.

You're an asshole! I just took a whole bottle of Valium, btw, so if you're gonna say something else...

That's fine, if you wanna call me an asshole, get in line. You won't be the first, and you'll be far from the last. I'm not wrong, though. The good news is, if you manage to puke up those pills before going to sleep, there are ways to fix your problem, perhaps.

-Get it out of your head you're gonna be rich. You're a small fish in a niche pond. A game is considered successful if it sells about 5,000 copies worldwide. "Global phenomena" like Splendor that take the world by storm sell 200,000 - and most of those sales went to Target because they were 6 dollars cheaper and because Target could put it next to the Barbie dolls and video games, or Amazon because someone was buying a bottle of Nair and it suddenly popped up on their screen. Riches likely won't happen. But if you put on your big boy pants and adjust your focus, you just might achieve a level of success.

-Get price competitive. Gnash your teeth at how nobody will give you 60 dollars when CSI will sell it to them for 25 all you like, but all that's gonna get you is a dental bill. It doesn't matter that you're brick and mortar and have weird expenses. What matters is that your price sucks compared to everybody else. You're going to have to come down and get in the neighbourhood of that price if you want to move product. Board games are weird in that people want to test them for 3 hours (without really spending anything) before they'll give you money. You have to account for that somehow, but that somehow isn't to make them not even consider you for anything but a demo.

-Get out there and market. Go to a senior citizens facility and TEACH them games. Do something at the public library. Oh, and bring business cards. They're not going to come to you, you have to go to them. Your store is scary as shit to them, no matter how clean you keep it (you DO keep it clean, right? Oh for fuck's sake, dude...). You've got dragons and zombies and some shit about a global pathogen outbreak in your window. It's intimidating to people who don't understand it. Grind it out.

-Adjust your model to provide value added services. A lot - I mean a LOT - of FLGS's these days are adding cafes, pubs, or restaurants to their stores and just hoping to make their money on food and alcohol. They still sell the board games at the razor thin margins, but most of their revenue is in consumables. Yeah, I know you likely didn't set out on this journey to become a restaurateur, but you probably didn't set out on this journey to put 3 mortgages on your house and end up in foreclosure, either. The problem with this model is it goes as the economy goes. The restaurant industry is one of the most cutthroat around, and most fail within 6 months, so you better nail the right item at the right price to your market. When the economy dips, people stop going out to eat. You're hitching your wagon to a dangerous enterprise, but it's high on the hog right now.

-Suck it up and deal drugs to kids. Yeah, I get it - you fucking hate Magic: The Gathering and you couldn't even name 3 Pokemon if someone spotted you Pikachu and Charizard. Sell this shit anyways, become an authorized dealer, start hosting tournaments in your space. M:TG is what drives revenue for a LOT of your type of stores (I've heard many tell me over the years "I hate Magic, but it pays my mortgage"). It's not just you - comic book shops have to do it, too. A little part of them dies with each sale, but the register makes a ringing noise. Again, your objective is kind of to not end up homeless.

-Offer specialty services.
OK, you've got some Warhammer shit, maybe, but don't know anything about it. Start stocking an array of craft supplies and paints. Get known as the place "that has all the Vallejo colours" and, believe me, word will get out. Hire some kid that really knows how to paint this shit and set up a section of your store to teaching people painting basics and watch the money come fucking flying in both from the minis crowd as well as the "wait a minute, you mean I can paint all 74,000 of my Zombicide zombies?" people. Craft supplies take up very little space, with many merely being end-caps, and are high margin business.

-Be a unique snowflake. You know what I have never once seen? A board game store...with a puzzle room attached to it. In the back, of course, so you have to walk through the store twice. Corporate team building initiatives fucking LOVE puzzle rooms, and you know these people can buy a board game, because they have a job that's good enough to where they get to participate in corporate team building. There's a natural match here. A board game store...with a laser tag arena. Screaming 12 year olds and their physically worn down parents who will do almost anything to get their kids to shut up. Fuck, I think I'm on to something here. Good thing for you, I have no interest in switching career tracks. I'm not even in your industry. How come I can think of this shit and you can't?

-Shut up and sell Monopoly. Yeah, we all know this game sucks. And all the ones like it. Know what else we know? That Hasbro is a multi-billion dollar company. You don't have to fill your store with that shit, but it shocks me how most stores I walk into don't have a single thing to get a quick sale out of someone that'd find Munchkin intimidating who stumbles in there looking for one of these things. Sure, try to talk them out of it, but still take their money when they refuse to consider anything else.

-Establish a strong online presence. Become sort of a board game warehouse that happens to also have a store like CSI or Funagain - this gets you the bigger wholesale margins, and you become a volume dealer. This last one has the added benefit of putting you in competition for all that Amazon revenue - you'll note MOST of the board games sold by Amazon...aren't sold by Amazon, but rather 3rd party sellers. Yeah, that's right cupcake - all that bitching you've been doing about Amazon, most of it has been business owners just like you who just decided to be smarter than you. They flanked your ass, and you didn't even see it. Again, the population of Cleveland has been spread out around the country, and you're still stupidly trying to cater to the 100 people within a 10 mile radius of you. You're working way too hard. Here you've been, thinking the Asmodee new model was going to help you out, not noticing that it's going to change nothing.

-Acknowledge your reality.. You can like it, or you can not, but it's still the reality. You need to learn to survive within the framework you're given. Your problems aren't going away. Be a SMART business owner. Evaluate your triple constraints, and compare it to the hierarchy of importance from a consumer perspective. Simply pleading with the masses is not going to be a viable strategy of success. The masses are fickle.

That sounds HARD

Welcome to business ownership and adulting. Maybe as a fallback plan, instead of buying that 7-11 burrito, you can go next door, get a frozen treat and hope one of those yoga pants wearers takes a liking to you and did really well in her divorce.

And for the love of god, STOP posting to 20,000 people how they should support you instead of the other guy just because you need it more.

Now get off my lawn.
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Mon Mar 21, 2016 4:53 am
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Q Rants about.. (Rant 2: The Golden Geeks, 2014 - part 3 of 3; Video Games)

Quintious .
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Microbadge: Blue Ribbon (Free Speech)Microbadge: Kanban: Automotive Revolution fanMicrobadge: Silver Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: 2017 Secret Santa participant Microbadge: I play with blue!
Part 1 is located here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/39264/q-rants-about-rant-...
Part 2 can be found over, nyear: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/39272/q-rants-about-rant-...

Ahhh, last one on the Golden Geeks, and then on to other topicals.

Various RPG Stuff

Look, I could go on a bit about these, but the reality is I've got a very narrow amount of subject tomes that I have any knowledge about, and I don't like to talk about things I don't necessarily understand fairly comprehensively. Then again, I'd imagine almost nobody has extensive knowledge of an array of RPG universes and tomes. There are some awards that were given out that I don't necessarily understand (aside from my central argument re: limited data points amongst voters), but I'm no better in terms of MY knowledge, so...the RPG awards are all perfect. Or something.

Video Games, on the other hand...

Game of the Year

The nominees:

Alien: Isolation
The Banner Saga
Destiny
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Endless Legend
Galaxy Trucker
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
The Last of Us Remastered
Mario Kart 8
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director's Cut
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Star Realms
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
Wasteland 2
The Wolf Among Us

How many of these nominees I played: 14/17
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 6

Who Won:

Winner - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Runner Up - Star Realms
3rd Place - Dragon Age: Inquisition

Why it's wrong:

Do I even need to say it? Seriously, Do. I. Even. Need. To. Say. It? Apparently I do. A GOD DAMN MAGIC RIP-OFF CANNOT BE GAME OF THE YEAR. Seriously, people are going to claim that a freemium card game - a game that can be run on even WEAK smart devices - is the best game to come out of 2014? People are going to stand up and claim that in a 97 BILLION dollar industry populated by some of the largest companies on the planet, that the best game out there is a card game that is still technically in beta. You're going to go with that response. That sounds like a valid thing to say to you. Are you sure? Have you been sipping too much of the Jesus Juice? No, that can't be it - meth. It's gotta be meth. Something MUCH stronger than wine needs to be involved to claim this. And oh, just for shits and giggles whilst we're living in this alternate reality where fucking Hearthstone is the best game of 2014, let's call the 2nd best game a port of another 2 player card game that's a blatant Ascension rip-off. Seems legit. I *totally* would take a game where I play the same 30 cards game in and game out over a game with a sprawling world and a bajillion knobs and buttons and stories. The only theory I can come up with here is that the voting was dominated by a world in which 140 characters or less is just too damn much reading. Oh, and before you just label me a hater of Hearthstone, I've reached rank 1/legend status 4 separate months, so I do play it - I just recognize the game for what it is - damn near mindless filler.

Who should have won:

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Why: First, disclaimer: One of the blokes who worked on 'Mordor' is a very good mate of mine. That inclination towards bias aside, we're talking about a title that took 4 or 5 years and god knows how much money to make. It also happens to be one of the few titles that's *ever* kept me interested enough to plat up a trophy to my PSN account. The end result was an open world that was beautiful and terrible in all the best ways all at once, with an innovative power struggle system, an even more innovative nemesis system, intuitive controls, a solid campaign mode, minigames that didn't feel tedious, and a game which came together to create a rare total package that wasn't reliant upon (usually launch day) DLC in order to feel complete. Bonus points for the fact that the game launched relatively bug-free, which is an anomaly in this day and age and a huge pet peeve of mine (hence why Dragon Age: Inquisition didn't even make my top 3 in spite of it being, by most accounts, an equally ambitious project. A game that ships basically broken with the intent of patching it up after you've convinced the masses into giving you 60 bucks doesn't deserve a trophy). Civ: Beyond Earth is an outstanding sequel to Sid Meier's seminal IP and injected life into a series that was starting to feel a little played through. The amount of options and expansion and replay value of that game is downright astounding. That's one of those games that people are *still* going to be playing years from now. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is just an amazing mystery game with a beautiful story and a certain ethereal quality to it that keeps you engaged and on the edge of your chair at all times. It largely flew under the radar because it's not just another hand-and-a-gun game, but this makes it no less amazing a project. The world will be much better with more hauntingly good titles like this one.

Best Visuals/Artwork

The nominees:

Alien: Isolation
The Banner Saga
Child of Light
Destiny
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Far Cry 4
Galaxy Trucker
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
inFAMOUS Second Son
The Last of Us Remastered
Mario Kart 8
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
The Wolf Among Us

How many of these nominees I played: 13/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 7

"You know what's a really beautiful game with amazing graphics? Hearthstone"

-No one sane, Ever


Who won:

Winner - The Banner Saga
Runner Up - Dragon Age: Inquisition
3rd Place - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Why it's wrong: I like 2D animations. I'm old. It's nostalgic for me. It's appealing to me. But I will never claim that something like Banner Saga even belongs in the same category of visuals as a present-day AAA project. That's just absurd. Inquisition was visually stunning in many parts, but any game where I can routinely walk out of an Orlesian chateau into....an empty textured world that looks like it stepped out of Minecraft and has nothing but a cliff for me to fall off of (oh, how many times that has happened), can't win best visual.

Who should have won:

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Last of Us Remastered
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Why: We're really reaching a stage in graphics where it's kind of a pick-em in terms of visual quality. At some point, one must consider how the art enhances the atmosphere of the game as a tiebreaker. In that regard, Ethan Carter stands tall. Again, the game has this wonderful ethereal sort of visual feel to it that's both haunting and awe-inspiring. I have reservations about putting The Last of Us anywhere on the trophy shelf because it's just a re-touched version of an older title, but you have to hand it to them - they did an amazing job with it. Shadow of Mordor, again, gives you a harsh and unforgiving landscape that's both gripping and terrifying in its beauty. It just lays it a little heavy with the re-textures. That games like inFAMOUS could not crack the top 3 speaks well of the year in graphics.

Best Indie Game

The nominees:

The Banner Saga
Five Nights At Freddy's
Galaxy Trucker
Geist - An Interactive Geek Horror
Goat Simulator
Monument Valley
Nidhogg
Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director's Cut
Shovel Knight
Star Realms
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
This War of Mine
Transistor
Wasteland 2
Xenonauts

How many of these nominees I played: 11/16
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 6

Who won:

Winner - Star Realms
Runner Up - Galaxy Trucker
3rd Place - The Banner Saga

Why that's wrong: So let me get this straight: Board games that bridge the gap between cardboard and the digital world ala Golem Arcana and Alchemists are vastly inferior shit according to voters on the cardboard side, but a completely digital interpretation of a rip-off card game or an existing tabletop game like Galaxy Trucker is so star-spangled awesome that we should all be slobbering on the floor in anticipation of being able to play them? Do you bottle unicorn farts, too?

Who should have won:

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
This War of Mine
The Banner Saga

Why: I've already talked at length about Ethan Carter. See above. This is a game that stood toe to toe with some of the biggest releases of the year. It stands so much taller in the Indie category it's not even funny. This War of Mine is just a really unique and compelling take on the survival genre from the aspect of average people trapped in a war zone rather than being the Rambo of WW II. So many tough decisions that have to be made, such ability to get you emotionally invested in the characters, such fantastic execution of mechanics. Such a unique take on a played out theme. Whenever this game goes on sale on Steam, you should absolutely buy it without reservation. Banner Saga is a great take on the RPG with choices that have consequences, a very intriguing universe. A really fascinating game with stunning visuals (for what they are) and not a lot of low points.


Best Mobile/Handheld

The nominees:

2048
Ascension: Darkness Unleashed
Ascension: Realms Unraveled
Ascension: Rise of Vigil
Battlelore: Command
Galaxy Trucker
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Hitman Go
Kingdom Rush Origins
Monument Valley
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Star Realms
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
Threes

How many of these nominees I played: 9/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 3 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Star Realms
Runner Up - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
3rd Place - Galaxy Trucker

Why it's wrong: So let me get this straight: Hearthstone is the best game of the year, but it's only the 2nd best mobile game of the year? Say whaaa? I don't do a lot of handheld gaming so I'm not going to make some separate list, but I will say that this is the one spot where Hearthstone absolutely deserves to be at the top of the heap. Mobile gaming is all about quasi-gaming and filling small blocks of time. Hearthstone is all about quasi-gaming and filling small blocks of time. A match made in heaven.

Most Innovative Game

The nominees:

Alien: Isolation
Divinity: Original Sin
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Five Nights At Freddy's
Galaxy Trucker
Goat Simulator
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Hyrule Warriors
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Monument Valley
Nidhogg
Tabletop Simulator
The Talos Principle
This War of Mine
Threes
Transistor

How many of these nominees I played: 12/16
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 5 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Galaxy Trucker
Runner Up - Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
3rd Place - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Why it's wrong: I just want to inject a series of memes of various people looking back at you voters with this blank stare of "Really? REALLY?" followed by an image of Red from 'That 70's Show' with the word 'Dumbass!' written at the bottom. Instead I'll simply point out that drugs are bad, you shouldn't do drugs, and not only do you have bad taste in video games, but you should feel bad for even letting the world know how bad your tastes are and how incapable you are of comprehending what the word "innovative" means. I suggest asking for a dictionary for Christmas. Galaxy fucking Trucker isn't even an innovative board game. What, because they figured out how to make it an app that makes it innovative? Give me a break. And oh, hey look, another high finish for the 30 card card game.

Who should have won:

This War of Mine
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Alien: Isolation

Why: Innovation in video games is becoming one of those things that is almost impossible to accomplish, because so much has already been done. But again, This War of Mine does what no other game before it has done - focuses on the average citizens trapped in the middle of a military struggle, and the struggles they have just to survive, completely separate from any efforts to try and win a war. Boundaries are often blurry in this game, personal conflict has a beacon put on it over picking up a rocket launcher and somehow putting it on your back with 17 other weapons that you can draw in 2 seconds. The game is dark, gripping, and never eases off the pedal, not even for a moment. 11-Bit Studios was incredibly daring with this title, and it deserves accolades. Mordor, I've already talked about above. The nemesis system is a game-changer, and the game sees to it that the NPC's adapt to and start pursuing your character in different ways depending on how previous encounters with them go. Very ambitious. Alien Isolation is, for the most part, a typical first person stealther, with one long-overdue twist in that the Alien....doesn't follow any sort of rails. It's completely unpredictable. The way they designed it to randomize how it stalks the player is awesome. That there's not a single safe spot you can rely on is really unique. The way they did the AI was incredibly innovative. Whilst I'm not a big fan of "the alien is indestructible", the way they coded how it behaves is fantastic.
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Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:54 am
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Q Rants about.. (Rant 2: The Golden Geeks, 2014 - part 2 of 3)

Quintious .
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Microbadge: Blue Ribbon (Free Speech)Microbadge: Kanban: Automotive Revolution fanMicrobadge: Silver Board Game CollectorMicrobadge: 2017 Secret Santa participant Microbadge: I play with blue!
Note: This particular rant covers a topic with so much material, it had to be broken into 3 parts. Part 1 (with relevant foundation for my case) is located here: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/39264/q-rants-about-rant-...

So, I did all that bitching. What did I find so odoriferous? Group by Group:

Board Game of the Year

The nominees:

Board Game: Alchemists
Board Game: AquaSphere
Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Board Game: Deus
Board Game: Five Tribes
Board Game: Imperial Settlers
Board Game: Istanbul
Board Game: Kanban: Driver's Edition
Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
Board Game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
 
Board Game: Panamax
Board Game: Pandemic: The Cure
Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy
Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
Board Game: Splendor
Board Game: Star Realms
Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System



How many of these nominees I played: 18/20 (Pandemic, Legendary)
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 9

Who won:
Winner - Splendor
Runner Up - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
3rd place - Five Tribes


Why "Splendor" is utterly wrong:

1) Because THIS cannot be the game of the year:
Board Game: Splendor

That's a deck of cards and some poker chips.

2) Because, whilst it's enjoyable to play, it is a game with no theme, very few mechanics, no real depth (it's simply a math puzzle), no immersion, and is little more than filler.

3) Because when the first thing 95% of people say when talking up how great this game is are how nice the poker chips are. Think about that.

4) It's well-established that the best strategy is to ignore the 3rd tier cards entirely. When you have a game this hollow, ignoring 1/3 of the deck you're given because it's a sucker's bet is a huge problem.

5) Because it's the gaming equivalent of giving the Grammy to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince over Public Enemy because Will Smith was the rapper that least frightened white people. Just because a game is utterly vanilla and non-threatening to all people does not the best game make.

Look, it's a nice little game. I own it. It proudly sits on the top of my shelf with all the other gateway/light filler games, in between The Last Banquet and some sort of Chez "whatever" game. This is a go-to game for when you're kicking off a night of gaming and somebody is running late, or at the end of the night when you don't want to go home yet, but there's not enough time to put a real game down. It's thoroughly unoffensive with a low barrier of entry, so it brings in non-gamers like parents and significant others to the table. It. Has. A. Place. I don't dispute that. But to tell me something this simple, something this hollow, is the best game to come out of a pretty decent 2014? I call bullshit. A gateway game, by definition, is a game on training wheels. It doesn't compete in the same circle as a high performance machine. That's not its point.

As to Dead of Winter: Had it won, I'd have nodded and said "wouldn't have been my first choice, but I get it". I have no complaints. It was a thematic, immmersive, engaging, challenging and rewarding experience. It told a great story and had intrigue and depth. Aside from the zombie theme, it was a fantastic title. Five Tribes? Mediocre in every sense. The Djinns were just tacked on at the last moment, the game lends itself to crazy AP, there are breaks to the gameplay that aren't dealbreakers, but eliminates it from discussion for GOTY.

Who should have won:
Kanban: Driver's Edition
Panamax
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Why: Because 2014 was a pretty damn good year for heavier titles. Because Stronghold had a banner year, releasing not one but TWO awesome meatier titles in one year - and deserved to be rewarded for it. Because Kanban is a breath of fresh air, a game that incorporates numerous mechanics into a flawless experience. Because whilst the game is daunting to learn, so many gears interlock so perfectly to create a thoroughly rewarding experience that simply works. Because once you know the game, it's actually not that intimidating at all. Panamax runs a VERY close second, and would have been my runaway favourite had Kanban not come around. Such a crunchy, thinky, punishing game with multiples paths to victory and almost infinite replayability. Aside from the horrendous rulebook and slightly tacked on feel of the stock market, the game is damn near perfect.

2-Player Game

The nominees:

Board Game: Akrotiri
Board Game: The Battle of Five Armies
Board Game: Blue Moon Legends
Board Game: Doomtown: Reloaded
Board Game: Draco Magi
Board Game: Fields of Arle
Board Game: Imperial Settlers
Board Game: Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men
Board Game: Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men
Board Game: Pagoda
Board Game: Patchwork
Board Game: Province
Board Game: Star Realms
Board Game: Warhammer 40,000: Conquest
Board Game: Wir sind das Volk!



How many of these nominees I played: 6/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 4 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Star Realms
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers
3rd Place - Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men

Why it was wrong: I think Star Realms was a pretty good game - for what is very blatantly an Ascension rip-off. I also liked Imperial Settlers - for what it was. I never played Dice Masters. The one thing I notice here is, like the GOTY, these are all very casual games. I didn't play most of them, so my data points are slimmer than I'd like.

Who I felt should have won:
Fields of Arle
The Battle of Five Armies
Greenland

Why: Because Fields of Arle is yet another masterpiece from Uwe Rosenberg, one of the absolute best designers out there. Because it's almost flawless in design and theme; because it's rich and rewarding. Because Star Realms doesn't really feel that much different than any other deck builder out there. Because it likely would have won had it received widespread release earlier than the very tail end of the year.

All in all...this matter of personal taste. The winners were too light, IMO, but this isn't a glaring thing like GOTY to where it just defies logic. And I didn't even play 9 of the 15 nominees, so I'm willing to keep an open mind. I will say this, however: That Greenland wasn't even nominated is pretty insulting to the title.

Abstract Game

The nominees:

Board Game: Burgoo
Board Game: Constructo
Board Game: Haru Ichiban
Board Game: Lagoon: Land of Druids
Board Game: Medina (Second Edition)
Board Game: Nika
Board Game: Onitama
Board Game: Patchwork
Board Game: This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us
Board Game: Town Center (Fourth Edition)


How many of these nominees I played: 1/10
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 0 (that I played)

Who Won:

Winner - Patchwork
Runner Up - Medina (Second Edition)
Runner Up - Lagoon: Land of Druids

Why it was wrong: Maybe it wasn't. I don't play abstracts, so I really have no opinion on this set, nor did I even vote for an abstract. I do know that not a single person I know that has played Lagoon likes it, because it's woefully broken (something I felt the one time I played it, as well). So how it finished 3rd seems weird to me. Maybe it was the art.

Artwork & Presentation

The nominees:

Board Game: Abyss
Board Game: Black Fleet
Board Game: Alchemists
Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Board Game: Colt Express
Board Game: Evolution
Board Game: Five Tribes
Board Game: Imperial Settlers
Board Game: Lagoon: Land of Druids
Board Game: Scoville
Board Game: Splendor
Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Board Game: Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary
Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System


How many of these nominees I played: 15/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 9/15

Who won:

Winner - Abyss
Runner Up - Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary
3rd Place- Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Why it was wrong: It wasn't, at least not the winner. Abyss was a thoroughly mediocre game in almost every possible meaning of the word, an utterly dull experience - a dullness that was made all the more disappointing due to how much of a treat you thought you were in for when you first sat down/set it up and saw how beautiful everything was. For as bad as the game is, the art is seriously next-level stuff. The other 2, however...this is the first category where you really start to see a situation where people go "Well, I haven't played hardly any of these games, but I liked X and Y, so I'll just vote for them whenever I see them". Dead of Winter is a fantastic game, but the art and presentation is absolutely nothing notable. Jesus, they used standees instead of minis (something I'd expect of other companies, but Plaid Hat loves miniatures). THere was no reason for DoW to even have a nomination here. And Ticket to Ride? Really? I like what they did with the wagons, but otherwise? Come on.

Who should have won:

Abyss
Scoville
Dragonscroll

Why: The category is called Artwork AND Presentation. Whilst Abyss's art is next-level stuff, Scoville's presentation is similarly stand-out. The pepper cubes and player board were vivid, well thought-out, attractive, and even took colour blindness into consideration, which is huge for a game that's so colour-centric. Dragonscroll, whilst a strictly BAD game (seriously, so, so bad), has AMAZING presentation, and the little dragons are show-stoppers. How this wasn't nominated is beyond me...

Card Game

The nominees:

Board Game: Abyss
Board Game: Diamonds: Second Edition
Board Game: Doomtown: Reloaded
Board Game: Greenland
Board Game: Imperial Settlers
Board Game: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
Board Game: Linko!
Board Game: Paperback
Board Game: Port Royal
Board Game: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles – Base Set
Board Game: Red7
Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
Board Game: Star Realms
Board Game: Valley of the Kings
Board Game: Yardmaster Express


How many of these nominees I played: 10/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 4 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Star Realms
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers
3rd Place - Sheriff of Nottingham

Why it was wrong: Hey cool, another victory for Ascensio...errr, I mean Star Realms. I, personally, would have chosen Greenland for reasons I'll go into below. Have already explained my thoughts on Settlers. The one I find offensive is Sheriff of Nottingham, which is a thoroughly mediocre game in every possible meaning of the word, a boring experience from start to finish where by the end of it, everybody is just rushing along so it'll be over. Even the felt bags were a bad choice, given that many people (myself included) find the feel of felt akin to listening to nails on a chalkboard (kids, look up "chalkboard", it's a thing us old timers used to use - and stop reading this blog, it's Rated R in places)

Who should have won:

Greenland
Paperback
Imperial Settlers

Why: Phil Eklund does it again. I don't usually go towards small-box games. It's so very thematic, it's got so much going on for so little components, the mechanics are fantastic, gameplay is not overly complex (something I actually look for in a card game), great strategy, the luck element isn't onerous (and what luck there is is utterly necessary). I think this is just a situation to where nobody even had access to this game, let alone my commentary about the onslaught of casual gamers. I wanted to put Pathfinder here, but RPG solitaire is just weird on tabletop.

Children's Games: I have no real commentary on children's games, as I only played 2 of the nominees and one of them (Hare & the Tortoise, the ultimate winner) I found to be a delightful title entirely worthy of praise.

Expansion

The nominees:

Board Game: 7 Wonders: Babel
Board Game: Bruges: The City on the Zwin
Board Game: Clash of Cultures: Civilizations
Board Game: Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Dominion
Board Game: Cyclades: Titans
Board Game: Eldritch Horror: Forsaken Lore
Board Game: Eldritch Horror: Mountains of Madness
Board Game: Eminent Domain: Escalation
Board Game: Fleet: Arctic Bounty
Board Game: Keyflower: The Merchants
Board Game: Mice and Mystics: Downwood Tales
Board Game: Smash Up: Science Fiction Double Feature
Board Game: Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice
Board Game: Trains: Rising Sun
Board Game: Viticulture: Tuscany – Expand the World of Viticulture


How many of these nominees I played: 13/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 6 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - 7 Wonders: Babel
Runner Up - Terra Mystica: Fire & Ice
3rd Place - Viticulture: Tuscany – Expand the World of Viticulture

Why that's dead wrong: Oh look! 7 Wonders is accessible to casual/quasi-gamer types, everybody plays 7 Wonders, so clearly Babel must be the best expansion EVER! Um, no. Not even remotely. For one, it's 2 mini expansions in 1 box. That you shouldn't play together. For another, whilst the Tower of Babel expansion can be mixed and matched with any/all previous expansions, the Great Works section clearly can't. So you've got an expansion that doesn't seamlessly integrate with the rest of the game/expansions. Further, what these expansions do is so subtle as to be wholly unnecessary. Yet more populist Bieber-voting bullshit.

Who should have won:

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island – Voyage of the Beagle (Vol. 1)
Clash of Cultures: Civilizations
Cyclades: Titans

Why: BGG likes to claim that Voyage of the Beagle came out in 2013 and....technically...it sort of did, but it wasn't available to anybody who wasn't willing to go to great lengths to get it until LATE 2014 thanks to Z-Man's ineptitude (I, personally, had to order a copy from Poland...and then sleeve my cards because they didn't match the RC game). That expansion takes an already fantastic, top-tier game and elevates it to a whole new level, the pinnacle of co-operative play. The campaign is engaging and interesting, the build-up is awesome, the mechanics are fantastic, there's significant challenge. It's got everything you could want. Clash of Cultures Civilizations fixes the one thing that held CoC back: The fact that everybody had the same tech trees. By adding unique tech capabilities, special leaders, and new buildings and options, Civilizations did to CoC what Voyage of the Beagle did to Crusoe: Took an already OUTSTANDING game and brought it up to a whole new level - and did so seamlessly. I was torn between 'Titans', 'Fire & Ice' and 'Tuscany' for 3rd. Tuscany helped fix a game that was in desperate need of help in Viticulture. Fire & Ice is a well thought-out expansion for an already amazing title, but it doesn't elevate it the way Civilizations or Beagle does. Titans, on the other hand, takes a game that I found to be rather mediocre (a battle royale in a fish bowl) and completely transformed it into everything I was hoping it could be. That's the mark of a truly awesome expansion, and that's why I'd give the nod to Titans over the other 2 that I didn't list.

Family Game

The nominees:

Board Game: Black Fleet
Board Game: Camel Up
Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Board Game: Colt Express
Board Game: Evolution
Board Game: La Isla
Board Game: Istanbul
Board Game: King of New York
Board Game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Board Game: Pandemic: The Cure
Board Game: Paperback
Board Game: Red7
Board Game: Sheriff of Nottingham
Board Game: Splendor
Board Game: Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary


How many of these nominees I played: 12/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 6 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Splendor
Runner Up - King of New York
3rd Place - Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary

Why it was wrong: It wasn't. This is one area where I thought Splendor should have had a real good chance of winning. It's a wonderful family game, because typically not everybody in the family is a gamer. Whilst I have serious reservations about listing KoNY or Ticket to Ride as "new" games given that neither of them are that materially different from their predecessors, they're fine family titles in their own right. Personally, I'd have given Black Fleet and Colt Express their moments in the sun because those are truly new titles and are every bit as good as the winners, but there's nothing egregious about these winners, except it again highlights voting via limited data points and by what has the most exposure. Some of the nominees here were head scratchers. Games like Ludwig and Red7 are far too complex in plausible strategy for a child to be proficient at. They didn't belong on this list.

Innovative

The nominees:

Board Game: Alchemists
Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Board Game: The Battle at Kemble's Cascade
Board Game: Colt Express
Board Game: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Board Game: Five Tribes
Board Game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
 
Board Game: Panamax
Board Game: Paperback
Board Game: Rattlebones
Board Game: Red7
Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy
Board Game: Spyfall
Board Game: Xia: Legends of a Drift System

How many of these nominees I played: 12/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 3 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Runner Up - Alchemists
3rd Place - Five Tribes

Why it was so wrong: Oh boy. Next to GOTY, this is the category that most has me (and many others) saying "Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?"

Innovative
adjective
1.
tending to innovate, or introduce something new or different; characterized by innovation.

What in the HELL is innovative about Dead of Winter? Nothing! For as lovely as that game is, one of the biggest categories it had no business even being in was "innovative". What, conditional event cards are "innovative" now? Give. Me. A. Break. That is a stretch of the highest order. This is a shining example of a category where people just voted for the 1 game they knew they liked and ran with it. It defies all logic. In a year where you saw the rise of the hybrid cardboard/digital game (Golem Arcana, Alchemists), in a year where you saw a new take on modular space games (Xia), in a year where you saw a wonderful "bag building" mechanic (Orleans was nominated, but Hyperborea did it better and is a better game), you're going to say with a straight fucking face that DEAD OF WINTER is the most innovative title of 2014? That's like saying Apple has ever innovated ANYTHING in the last 20 years! It's revisionist history built upon cultish fanboi-ism! And Five Tribes? FIVE TRIBES? What in God's name was in the Kool-Aid for people who voted on this category? I fear for our education system if this is what people legitimately classify as "innovative". This defies all logic in every possible level. This is worthy of a National Lampoon's Vacation Clark W. Griswold string of obscenities and insults that only Chevy Chase could pull off. Jesus Christ!

Who SHOULD have won:

Golem Arcana
Hyperborea
Alchemists

Why: Golem Arcana did what NO OTHER GAME IN THE HISTORY OF THE FUCKING HOBBY has ever done - it took miniatures gaming and made it accessible to people who don't want to wade through a rules tome 3.4 feet thick - I'm sorry, 3.4126 feet thick, because that precision is important to miniatures gamers - and argue about whether an attacker is 1/32" out of range or not and whether it's because the person who measured it nudged the attacking figure back 1/32". THAT'S INNOVATION! This isn't even close! It was Golem Arcana and then EVERYBODY ELSE this year, and yet GA didn't even get nominated - likely because of the cost of the game! Talk about absurd. Alchemists similarly bridged that cardboard and app gap, and did it amazingly well through use of the camera on a smart device. That's innovation! Hyperborea innovated on the deck building mechanic with the cube building/bag building mechanic and somehow tacked it into an area control civ building battle game, and did a fantastic job in the process - that's innovation! I feel bad leaving Xia off the list, but it fell 4th in one of the strongest crops in forever - a crop that was, with the exception of Alchemists, completely crapped upon and made into an epic gaming joke! What these titles did was not an evolution of the hobby, they were god damn REVOLUTIONS of it, displaying a fundamental shift in how people will view and play games in the future!(Caps, bold, italicized, underlined, exclamation point!). They created WHOLE NEW GENRES within the hobby! Yes, I get it, Golem Arcana and Hyperborea are very expensive games (Hyperborea, especially, given what you get). It doesn't change the fact that they are light years ahead of anything that got nominated. Epic fail. Epic, epic fail.

Writer's note: I'm tired of linking images to the post. It's taking forever, which is a waste of time even though I'm getting paid whilst I sit around doing this. I'm changing format for the rest of this topic.

Party Game

The nominees:

Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition)
Concept
Good Cop Bad Cop
King of New York
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Pairs
Red7
Sheriff of Nottingham
Spyfall
Ultimate Werewolf: Deluxe Edition

How many of these nominees I played: 8/10
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 3

Who won:

Winner - Ca$h 'n Guns (Second Edition)
Runner Up - One Night Ultimate Werewolf
3rd Place - Sheriff of Nottingham

Why it was wrong: Ca$h & Guns isn't a new game - it's a game that's about a decade old which has only had a couple of adjustments made to it and then re-released. It's also fun precisely...about 1 time. I've already talked at length about Sheriff, but for this category I should point out that it doesn't scale to "party" sizes.

Who should have won:

One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Concept
Spyfall

Why: One Night, even though it's based on a classic party game theme, drastically changed the way the game would be played, severely reduced the amount of time commitment (which makes it better for parties than games with elimination aspects....you know, like Cash & Guns). And it did all this without losing the Werewolf feel. Concept is a delightful title that scales really well and requires just enough brain wattage to be interesting for adults.

Print & Play:
I didn't play a single one of these games. Not even one. Nor did I play an alternative to draw off of. Hence why I never even voted on them. Who knows, maybe this was the perfect selection category.

Solo Game:
I played a significant amount of these games. But did not play any of them solo. As such, I'm not really in a position to where I can talk about how they play solo. Of them, my guess is the co-op titles ala Pathfinder and Doomrock lead the pack, as co-op games scale perfectly from 1 to max, but no way to know certainly.

Strategy Game

The nominees:

Alchemists
AquaSphere
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Deus
Five Tribes
La Granja
Hyperborea
Imperial Settlers
Istanbul
Kanban: Driver's Edition
Orléans
Panamax
Roll for the Galaxy
Star Realms
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

How many of these nominees I played: 15/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 10

Who won:

Winner - Five Tribes
Runner Up - Imperial Settlers
Runner Up - Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Why it's so very wrong: Five Tribes?!? Fucking FIVE TRIBES?!? The best strategy game of 2014?!?! Was everybody just farcing this category? Are you flippin' serious?! FIVE TRIBES?! My thoughts on it, I've already given. Let me expand on why this would arguably be the dumbest decision outside of innovation: There is actually very little strategy to the game. The game gives you the IMPRESSION of having it - but really, you're just trying to react and optimize play relative to what other people do vs. setting yourself up. You do not need to think multiple moves ahead. You don't have other avenues to victory to ponder at all times. You are seldom, if ever, really torn on what to do. The game is entirely based upon staring at the game field long enough to discern which one gives you the most points. What an epic, unmitigated joke. And it's not even that GOOD of a game, let alone strategy game! The worst part about this is, there were between 8-10 legitimate contenders for this title, and it goes to god damn Five Tribes...

Who should have won:
Kanban: Driver's Edition
Panamax
La Granja

Why: I've already talked about Kanban and Panamax at some length. I will simply say that both of these titles, as well as La Granja, place strategy at the highest of premiums. You are constantly forced to make tough decisions in order to determine how you will proceed. You are constantly forced to think moves, even rounds ahead. You are constantly challenged not only by your own strategies, but by the layout of the board and, in the case of Kanban, by the board's counterbalance in the form of the board's player. You are constantly tasked with the effort of working - and working hard - for every inch you gain. These 3 titles are some of the strongest strategy titles to come out in YEARS, and they got completely skunked? Good lord...That a game like Golem Arcana wasn't even nominated in this space is also beyond belief.

Thematic Game

The nominees:

Arcadia Quest
The Battle at Kemble's Cascade
The Battle of Five Armies
Colt Express
Cthulhu Wars
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Evolution
Greenland
King of New York
Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
Pandemic: The Cure
Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Thunder Alley
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

How many of these nominees I played: 11/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 7 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Runner Up - Star Wars: Imperial Assault
3rd Place - King of New York

Why it was wrong: A well-deserved win for Dead of Winter, which I felt should run away with this category. I don't know that I, personally, would have listed Imperial Assault, but I totally get it. King of New York is a complete head scratcher, though - there's little thematic about that game. I can only assume this is yet another one of those categories that had people voting for the limited amount of games they had played - and the data points were small.

Who should have won:

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Arcadia Quest
Xia: Legends of a Drift System

Why: Arcadia Quest is a ridiculously thematic experience. I'm not always the biggest fan of CMoN, but they really did something great here. And there's not a game they make (aside from Dogs of War) that lacks in theme. I was surprised it didn't get any recognition. Thunder Alley is another great theme game, but it's a racer, and the theme is really more in the form of a spreadsheet, so I get it. Xia, for all its faults, oozes theme start to finish, emboldened by the great spaceship miniatures and board interaction. I get the feeling a lot of people intentionally left Xia off of voting ballots - beyond the fact that it's hard to get so most people haven't played it - because it's so highly spoken of by its disciples that this game has somehow become both underrated and overrated all at once.

Wargame

The nominees:

1944: Race to the Rhine
The Battle of Five Armies
Blood & Roses
D-Day at Tarawa
Enemy Coast Ahead: The Dambuster Raid
Fire in the Lake
Heroes of Normandie
Holdfast: Russia 1941-42
Hoplite
Quartermaster General
Reluctant Enemies: Operation Exporter
Storm Over Dien Bien Phu
Unconditional Surrender! World War 2 in Europe
Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game
Wir sind das Volk!

How many of these nominees I played: 3/15
How many viable contenders I felt there were: 2 (that I played)

Who won:

Winner - Fire in the Lake
Runner Up - The Battle of Five Armies
3rd Place - 1944: Race to the Rhine

Notes: This is the only category where I played so few of the titles (20%) and still actually cast a vote. I cast one - for Fire in the Lake - which I found to be an immensely impressive title that I will very likely be adding to my collection soon. I don't usually vote with such limited data points, but I know that if I see GMT on the box, it's going to be great, so I feel confident here. I don't know if 3rd place was stupid or not. I liked Five Armies, but wouldn't feel confident calling it one of the best.

Best Podcast

The nominees:

Advance After Combat
Blue Peg, Pink Peg
Boardgames To Go
The D6 Generation - Dice Are Our Vice
The Dice Tower
Flip the Table
Heavy Cardboard
The Long View
Ludology
On Board Games
Plaid Hat Podcast
Rolling Dice & Taking Names Gaming Podcast
The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast
Shut Up & Sit Down
The Spiel

Who won:

Winner - The Dice Tower
Runner Up - The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast
Runner Up - Shut Up & Sit Down

Notes: I don't listen to podcasts. I do know that TDT is the gold standard in the industry though, so I'm not surprised it's going to run away with any award. I would like to see a video reviewer category next year, because the "Watch it Played" series on Youtube is a cut above everything else out there, and what I will ultimately hope to emulate when I get around to making my own video series.

Now get off my lawn.
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Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:26 am
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Q Rants about.. (Rant 2: The Golden Geeks, 2014 - part 1 of 3)

Quintious .
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(Part 1 of 3: Part 2/3 is going over the winners and my own completely anecdotal and opinionated view of what should have happened).


They came out a couple of days ago, and commentary has been....lively. Facebook, private game group chains, BGG....it's the most spirited conversation about the awards I've seen since jumping into this hobby. And with good reason. This year marked when BGG registered its 1 millionth user - an awesome achievement and a sure bellweather that this hobby, thanks in no small part to resources like this site, Wil Wheaton, the rise of the game convention, and the United States (1% market penetration as of 2013) catching up with Europe (7% penetration) on the concept that board games are a worthwhile hobby and more than just roll-and-move luckfest games like Monopoly and Life.

In years past, the Golden Geek awards largely rewarded the games that were the best constructed, were the best thought-out, used the most interesting mechanics or immersive quality. And why wouldn't they? The people voting for these games were gamers (say it with force!). The average person was not even peripherally aware of resources like BGG. Therefore, the voting was conducted largely by people who played a lot of games, and had many data points by which to base their decisions. At the end of the day, it was still a popularity contest, but it was small one, and many of the voters played a great many of the nominees. It was all very serious business, you see, the art of play.

However, there's been a shift. As more people pile into the hobby and it reaches a period of hyperbolic growth, as playing games becomes more mainstream, as games become more accessible and people become more product-aware of them due to placement in places like Target as opposed to some small shack tucked away in the corner of a shopping mall somewhere, the curve of people with many data points begins to suffer. A systemic break caused by scale, if you will. As this period of high growth has happened in a relatively short period of time, the majority of the people who joined the hobby during that time period are largely concentrated in a more limited range of titles due to lower barriers of accessibility. By that I mean...we all have to start somewhere. Many started off with Catan, Red Dragon Inn, a Steve Jackson game, Splendor or the like. Games which nobody take very seriously, and which could be explained in a matter of sentences. Gateways. Really more social activities than games. As we grew more confident, we would take on slightly more challenging titles - Lords of Waterdeep, Takenoko, Pandemic. Games with a slightly longer curve, but which could still be played in less than a couple of hours and could be explained in 10 minutes. At some point, you feel more confident, and you're willing to up the challenge a bit - Manhattan Project, Fortune & Glory, Puerto Rico. Before you know it, you're jonesing for your next fix of Die Macher or Twilight Struggle; you yearn for a game of Robinson Crusoe or Through the Ages; you carve out entire days so you can get a game of Twilight Imperium or Runewars on the table. We decide to learn complex Excel macros so we can better keep track of our 18xx game or a season of Blood Bowl. Various people stop at various stages of the journey, but a lot of us filter through to the deep end of the pool at some point. It is, however, a process that takes time.

Which brings us to 2014. 2014 was a year in which a HUGE amount of non-gamers started getting pulled in towards losing the "non" part of that label. Welcome to the addiction, your needle station is to the right! The issue that comes with this, though - well, you've got an annual voting of best games, and now you have a baby boomer-esque amount of voters who are only early in their gaming adventures and have very limited data points when it comes time for them to pull the lever (or check the box, as it were). I have absolutely no statistical analysis to back up this theory, unfortunately - none such analysis exists that I could poll from. I have to come to this conclusion through a usage of highly compelling circumstantial data, logical progression, and anecdotal observation. It's a theoretical A+B+C=D train. A) there are more gamers, B) new gamers typically don't jump right into heavier fare, C) they will have fewer data points which leads to D) a series of Golden Geek award winners that...let's just say that when you put them next to previous years, one of these years is not like the others.

Is it broken? I guess that depends on what your objective is. If all you want is a validation of what the most popular and most (over)exposed titles of a given year are, then I suppose not. If you want an honest evaluation of the best products as voted on by a collective that is highly knowledgeable and can even recognize most of the nominees, then we've likely found a fissure in the stack. Justin Bieber wins the Peoples' Choice Award for best male musician year in and year out. Why? Because there are a lot more 11 year old girls - who have no idea who Beck is, aside from that guy Kanye West went ranting about, and they think RHCP is a venereal disease that can be treated with some drug they saw on a commercial featuring an old distinguished white dude walking on a beach followed by an empowered woman riding barefoot on a horse talking about how they won't let living with RHCP conquer them - willing to vote than there are voters who are even peripherally aware of what else is out there. Does that mean Bieber is the best male artist (and about 17 other awards he'll take home on that given day, including "best country song", "best metal performance", and "lifetime achiever")? Of course not. It's just what the majority recognizes. Limited data points.

2014 was the year we reached that point. Now, one day, these "gamey boomers" will hopefully progress down the track and get more involved in the hobby, acquire those larger data points - but present day, the result is a dominant voting bloc that simply - through no fault of their own - lacks the deep-dive knowledge of the nominees in order to make a fully informed decision. They will vote for what they recognize. Which is why you can have games not only nominated for, but ultimately winning, categories that they didn't even remotely belong in in the first place - because people saw something they recognized next to a bunch of things they didn't recognize and decided to just vote for it every time they saw it without learning about the other choices - the equivalent to blindly voting straight-party on a November ballot.

The thing that brought down awards programmes like the Origin Awards, amongst many others, was that they simply became a popularity contest whereby the game that managed to secure the most exposure (usually through large-scale marketing pushes or aggressive pricing) would just win, regardless of whether or not that was justified. The Golden Geek Awards, historically, stood out as an outlier. You could generally trust the results. Even if you didn't necessarily agree with them, you could look at them and "get" the logic behind them. Your views might not completely align with the winners, but you weren't at the complete opposite side of the aisle category in and category out. Those days are, apparently, over - at least for the time being.

And that's just on the board game side of the house. This year's video game Golden Geeks were....look, I get that we're mostly board gamers, but if you're trying to tell me that a Magic rip-off was a better game than an effort that took YEARS to make, with an involved story and free choices and a billion other things...I mean, one is a video game, the other one is just an app (and before you say a video game *is* an app, a video game is an application stack, which is different)

Why does it matter? It doesn't, really. I liked the Golden Geeks because it would raise awareness to the best and brightest, give exposure to well-deserving games that maybe weren't heavily publicized, raise the level of nerd-cred of the designer and, most importantly, give much-deserved shout-outs to those who created something special over the prior year, across all disciplines. As the hobby becomes more popular, significantly more games get made. More games get made, more games fly under the radar or escape play. More games escape play, and talented designers and games don't get their time in the sun whilst Bieber hogs the spotlight. I like the Golden Geeks, because they're historically informative. So why am I ranting about it if it ultimately doesn't matter?

Because, if this is the voting format going forward, your 2015 game of the year, no matter what else gets made, is going to be Exploding Kittens.

Exploding. Fucking. Kittens.


What service is THAT going to do to the community?

Now get off my lawn.
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Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:08 am
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Q Rants about... (Rant 1: What the hell this whole blog is about)

Quintious .
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We'll see how long this holds my interest. I've long-debated putting together a couple of blogs for reviews and what not, just never bothered to find the time (much like my circle's desire to start a playthrough video group).

Anyhow, what this is: A blog by which I will go off about...anything I like related to games and gaming.

Who: As those who know me can attest, I'm a very blunt, brutally honest bloke who's not afraid to be assertive, without actually being an "alpha" type. I call BS when I see it, and I don't filter my opinions based upon whether it might offend someone with thin skin (SJW's, in particular, are not my biggest fans - a reciprocal relationship). I also, however, try to avoid talking out of my ass and always endeavour to make sure I back up a viewpoint with a cogent and reasoned logic, no matter how cold that logic is. I'll likely endeavour to link things here into reviews for games (which I must start doing..)

Why this is: Because one of my frustrations is how passive a lot of people in this hobby I love so much are. Passive aggressive, passively passive, you name it. I frequently lament that there's no spot where there's an "anything goes" safe zone where there's no having to tiptoe around delicate sensibilities - where we can go 12 rounds, then tip back a pint, say good show, and be the better for it. I'd like to make a corner where that can happen. Or where I can talk into an echo chamber. That works, too.

The where and how are both obvious; the when too variable dependent to state with exactitude.

A Q&A with...myself!

But ranting...isn't that negative?
-Without dark, there can be no light. Beyond that, it is my hope that when going talking about one thing that I'm not really down with, it will provide opportunity to go on about things that I feel are quite positive. I like dialogue. Balance in all things, young padawan.

I'm offended! Your cold logic chills me to my core, robot!

-There's an "X" in the upper right hand corner you can click at any time. I promise you I won't be offended - you can be offended for both of us.

How many things can you *really* rant about?
-Ninja, please; Lewis Black has been doing it for a couple decades now. Spoiler alert: He's definitely funnier than I am. Which is why he'll charge you 80 bucks and this is free.

Do you take requests?

-As long as the request isn't Stairway. No Stairway.

Now get off my lawn.
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Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:07 am
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