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Subject: The Shiny New Penny Syndrome rss

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Walter OHara
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Every hobby has to grow to survive, and boardgaming really isn't any different. So we'll always be bombarded with the Latest and Greatest syndrome. However, it seems to me that in the area of family/euro games, the gaming community (and by that I mean BGG, the loose network of blogs and podcasts, and other public forums available on the internet) seems to be mostly focused on the products that have been published in the last two years and looking greedily forward to the next pile of new releases. I'm not lecturing here; I have a wish list of games as long as your arm. I'm just wondering, where are the classics? Where are the games from 7 or 8 years ago that are still getting played?

A couple weeks back I contributed a "Highlights of 2005" bit to a podcast I contribute to now and then. I was jeered at (in a kindly way) for waxing so eloquently about playing the game SETTLERS OF CATAAN for the very first time in my life, and really enjoying it. Certainly, the jeering was mostly because I was misreading my instructions (they wanted my take on the best GAMES PUBLISHED, and I interpeted this as THE BEST GAMES THAT I PLAYED during the year). Yet I still kind of detected a hint of "Settlers???? That's so... nineties!" in the commentary.

I mostly play board wargames but certainly not exclusively. In the "wargaming-centric" crowd we play a lot of older titles we call "Classics"... games like Wacht am Rhein, Afrika Korps, Battle of the Bulge, Russian Front, etc. We still buy new games with the rapacity of a crack addict getting free samples at a methadone clinic, but LOTS of what the "family game crowd" would call "OLD GAMES!" get lots of play, repeatedly. Some of them, like ASL, have veritable cults built up around them.

So, where are the Euro/Family gaming classics? I can think of a few, like Die Macher, Siedlers, maybe Puerto Rico. But I'm too new to this segment of boardgaming to be well-versed enough to answer. Are we all just chasing the bright shiny new penny?
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Chapel
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hotspur wrote:

So, where are the Euro/Family gaming classics? I can think of a few, like Die Macher, Siedlers, maybe Puerto Rico. But I'm too new to this segment of boardgaming to be well-versed enough to answer. Are we all just chasing the bright shiny new penny?


Yes, and Yes. We love playing the classics, and we love playing the new titles. Sometimes it's tight to get them all in in a year. We tend to do things like Jon Theys A-Z, where he focuses on one or two first titel letters a month. Like january just play game that begin with the letter A-B, etc. That way you force feed yourself to play existing titles. Make a meta-game out of it. I only played 175 titles last year, and 88 of them were my first time playing. So I have been doing about half and half of new games and old games.
 
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Chris Bailey
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I hear ya. I ALMOST bought Descent. I played my friends copy though, and while I had fun, I'm not sure I need to buy it. Same goes for Twilight Emperium 3. Cool bits but I doubt I would ever play it.
 
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Kurt Rompot
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I'll be playing Settlers of Catan and Samurai tomorrow night. When you play with "non-gamers" a lot you realize a couple things. Not everyone shares our fascination with learning a new game everytime we get together. And there are a lot of people out there who haven't played the "classics". Now that my "new to designer games" spending spree has settled down, I could see trying to limit myself to only picking up a handful of games a year and also trying to do more trading. What I do buy will be games I know I will be able to play with my family and friends, not something I will only take out late at night after everyone has gone to sleep to look at longingly....
 
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Philip Thomas
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Well, there's something in what you say. However, I think board games have been improving in quality and nature over the past twenty years. The eurogame field is a crowded one, but there is room for more.

Settlers is a good game. There are plenty of other good games, and some of them are more recent. Just because a game's new doesn't mean its bad.


I guess the current Shiney is Caylus...
 
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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hotspur wrote:
So, where are the Euro/Family gaming classics? I can think of a few, like Die Macher, Siedlers, maybe Puerto Rico. But I'm too new to this segment of boardgaming to be well-versed enough to answer. Are we all just chasing the bright shiny new penny?


For me, the all time classic Euro is El Grande. Ten years old this year, I think, and I'll never turn down a game of it unless it's really, really late (like I did one year at the Gathering ...).

Others like Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix, original Entdecker, Ta Yu, Wildlife Adventure, San Marco also qualify to me as classics, though some aren't that old. Probably many more when I go home and peruse my shelves - these are just from memory.
 
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Michael Pennisi
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Quote:
Yet I still kind of detected a hint of "Settlers???? That's so... nineties!" in the commentary.


I'm a regular listener to the same podcast and I didn't get that sense. Rather I sensed astonishment in Tim and Job (fake names to protect anonymity) that you, being a member of the "community", had never played this staple of the gaming world.

Quote:
Die Macher, Siedlers, maybe Puerto Rico.


You have definitely touched on three classics right here. I'd throw in El Grande, and maybe Princes of Florence or Samurai. I think part of why there are not many "classics" yet is because for many of us, this is still a fairly new hobby.

And yes we all eagerly look forwards to shiny new games like kids on Christmas. It's the nature of being collectors/enthusiasts. As an analogy: consider wine enthusiasts, they don't keep drinking the same Cabernet even if they really like it -- they look forward to trying other vintages/varieties/labels and occasionally return to ones tehy really like.
 
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Scott Aikens
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I've only been a BGG geek since December, so (to my eyes) nearly every game featured here is a Shiny New Penny. I'll be playing my first game of Settlers of Catan this weekend, and I'll be joined by two other n00bs and a Settlers "veteran" (he's been playing for all of two weeks).

Established BGG geeks may be chasing the most recently minted penny, but it's worth noting that new gamers like myself are signing up every day. The games you enjoyed years ago are the same games we're experiencing today for the first time.

Just my shiny two cents...keep blazing the trail for us!
 
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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In terms of helping the industry that supplies boardgames, it's very important to continue to make new games and have those games purchased by people. Perhaps we should play older classics more, but I think there's great value to having the games that you're extolling available to the general public...
 
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david landes
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Cosmic encounter still comes out regularly on our game nights.
 
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Joe Gola
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hotspur wrote:
So, where are the Euro/Family gaming classics? I can think of a few, like Die Macher, Siedlers, maybe Puerto Rico. But I'm too new to this segment of boardgaming to be well-versed enough to answer. Are we all just chasing the bright shiny new penny?

pre-2000, still in print, in BGG top 100, and played this month:

Euphrat & Tigris (released 1997, still in print, ranked #3 on BGG, 96 plays this month)
Die Macher (released 1986, still in print, ranked #6 on BGG, 2 plays this month)
El Grande (released 1995, still in print, ranked #7 on BGG, 27 plays this month)
Ra (released 1999, still in print, ranked #16 on BGG, 128 plays this month)
Settlers of Catan (released 1995, still in print, ranked #23 on BGG, 223 plays this month)
Modern Art (released 1992, still in print, ranked #30 on BGG, 34 plays this month)
Advanced Civilization (released 1991, still in print, ranked #37 on BGG, 2 plays this month)
Samurai (released 1998, still in print, ranked #49 on BGG, 76 plays this month)
Through the Desert (released 1998, still in print, ranked #59 on BGG, 174 plays this month)
Dune (released 1979, still in print, ranked #61 on BGG, 14 plays this month)
Acquire (released 1962, still in print, ranked #77 on BGG, 27 plays this month)

I looked up that stuff fairly quickly, so forgive any typos or missed games.
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Ryan Hackel
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Boardgaming is an intellectual pursuit, driven by the desire to increase knowledge. In one way, it is much like reading as a hobby. Once a person reads a book, especially works of fiction, there is little motivation or desire to reread the book, as there isn't enough new information left in the text to merit the time investment. That time would be better spent reading a different book. The pleasure of reading, for many people, is the discovery of new information, which in turn demands a reader to always cover a new ground.

I believe gaming is like the above example, with a few major differences. Firstly, games are far more inclined to repeat use, compared to books. Very few games are mastered in just one attempt; it takes several plays in order to wring out all the intellectual knowledge from a game. Some games take a small number of plays (Tic-Tac-Toe, Sorry), and some can be played inexhaustively for a lifetime (Chess, Go). But eventually a game's potential to add to a player's knowledge wears out. This in turn drives the need for new games. Whether they are classics or new modern games fresh off the press, a gamer needs a new game like a reader needs a new book.

Secondly, gaming, unlike reading, as a group activity. But it is the nature of knowledge to spread. Once a reader enjoys an exceptional book, he or she feels a strong desire to share that book with others. "Hey, you'd really enjoy this book that I finished reading." This is why book clubs are formed. Games serve this same purpose, but in a more direct manner. We all have a game that we love very much, whether for design, theme, or entertainment value, that we desperately want to teach to others. Gamers are frequently introducing other gamers to the games that are dear to them. We await the day when we can teach our favorite games to our children. This is one way that classic games are kept going, why games from decades past (Acquire, Diplomacy, even Mille Bornes) are still popular today.

However, games and books can become so dated as to diminish their appeal. Settlers of Catan and Acquire were both innovative when they were first published, but better innovations have been developed since then. A book can become so antiquated that the ideas contained in it are either lost on a modern reader, no longer relevant after a large number of years, or the language itself is archaic and difficult to understand. Because of this, classics pale in comparison to their contemporary brethern. Once you've played Power Grid, Settlers loses its appeal.

Most intellectual pursuits are subject to these mechanics, be they games, books, movies, music, art, and the like. Enthusiasts are driven by the rush of knowledge, the desire to learn new things. Thus we are always expanding our boundaries. We pay homage to the classics, to pay our respects to the ideas they pioneered. And we look forward to the new innovations and ideas that today's designers put forth.

One sentence summary: It is the nature of intellectual pursuits to require constantly expanding horizons, creating the need for new discoveries.

(A much simpler arguement would be that we play whatever is fun, be they old or new. If the older games are more fun, we'd be playing them to this day. Tigris & Euphrates, Lost Cities, Settlers, and Formula De are not shiny pennies anymore, but they make strong showings on BGG's Games Played stats.)
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I know it's not a "Euro-game", but it often gets lumped in with the best of games and despite its length, DUNE by Avalon Hill is and probably always will be a highly regarded, true classic game.

My group just spent 7 and a half hours on 13 turns of the 15 turn game, and even though I played the Guild (which can only win if no one else does by the end of the game), it was one of the most fun and exciting games we've played in a long time. The negotiation, the alliances, the battles, the twists of fate, the variety of strategies and winning conditions, all packed into such a simple component set make this a perennially enjoyable favorite that plays like the book it's based on.

If you wanted to, you could play AH classics like Dune, Acquire, and Diplomacy once a month for a year and probably never get tired of them. Dune is out of print but lives on thanks to eBay and sites like this:
http://www.sorvan.com/games/dune/dune.html
You can manufacture a set from the components there fairly easily, not to mention the files here on BGG.
If you haven't played DUNE, take my advice. Put your wish list on hold, and buy, borrow or make a copy and find a Saturday to PLAY the beast. You will *not* regret it.
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derk wrote:
In terms of helping the industry that supplies boardgames, it's very important to continue to make new games and have those games purchased by people. Perhaps we should play older classics more, but I think there's great value to having the games that you're extolling available to the general public...


Derk is spot on here... which is slightly suprising considering how he looks in that dress. But yes, availability is ground zero. The idea, I would think, would be for an FNG to find BGG while looking for info on a game played at family/friends, etc. When the new guy discovers the insane amount of games that are too cool to imagine it's important that the ones talked about the most are accessible.

Once hooked, the new Geek will find he/she is spending a lot of time reading about "older" titles and then start searching those out as well. SoC may well be the number one game that brings newbies to BGG for the first time and whether it's dated or not, it's a vital step. Others that qualify and are still in print range from Axis & Allies to many of the reviled Steve Jackson card games and a plethora (cool word) of party games and light fillers like Apples to Apples, Cranium, Perudo and the like.

FWIW, the older titles that I still play and have taught to newbies are games that are still in print, like Mayfair's crayon rails games or relatively easy to locate, like Battle Cry.
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hotspur wrote:
Every hobby has to grow to survive, and boardgaming really isn't any different. So we'll always be bombarded with the Latest and Greatest syndrome. However, it seems to me that in the area of family/euro games, the gaming community (and by that I mean BGG, the loose network of blogs and podcasts, and other public forums available on the internet) seems to be mostly focused on the products that have been published in the last two years and looking greedily forward to the next pile of new releases. I'm not lecturing here; I have a wish list of games as long as your arm. I'm just wondering, where are the classics? Where are the games from 7 or 8 years ago that are still getting played?
...
So, where are the Euro/Family gaming classics? I can think of a few, like Die Macher, Siedlers, maybe Puerto Rico. But I'm too new to this segment of boardgaming to be well-versed enough to answer. Are we all just chasing the bright shiny new penny?


Hotspur,

Your post touches on a thought I had a while for what would be a good BGG award. Rather than focus on the latest and greatest, you could have awards for the long-lasting games you describe. "We" could offer BGG Best Game for a given year some standard number of years in the past. 5 years, 10 years, 20 years...however far in the past you want to go. (A panel convening this year and offering a 10-years-on 'Best Of' prize would review the games released in 1996, for example.)

It's disadvantage is that it doesn't recognize current releases and would probably not be very useful as an "industry" prize. (But it might be an excellent review of trends.) But as an award that really honors games that are played long after they are published by the gaming subculture that plays them, I think it's an idea whose time has come.
 
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Gary Christiansen
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Well coined phrase, Walt. And certainly the pun is, as you'd guess, intentional.

This is a concept which warrants a lot more exploration than you're going to get from people who are willing to constantly buy new titles. The people who get years and years of value from one game are going to purchase a lot less new titles and are going to look at the Shiney New Penny title with a different view than the ones who play, then set it aside quickly.

Perhaps a good corollary is to look at the way the auto industry works. Those guys want you to buy a new car every 2 years. That's what they design for and market for. They are modelling their business around the same concept the fashion industry does, which is that you want the latest fashion. So what you end up doing is spending money whether you need to or not on the latest and greatest model, fashion, or in the case you're discussing, game. Can everyone really afford to be in that economic model and behavior pattern?

The expertise in playing a new title off the shelf, learning new rules, and flying successfully to being unbeaten is a sign of your personal flexibility, intellect, and perhaps your ability to adapt to change. There is a degree of personal status associated with that talent or skill. Just as there is status in a new car or the latest fashion. Clearly this is not a simple matter though of Status, but the success of replay value in a title, the entertainment dollar being stretched by the number of times you play it, and the duration it's a primary title you choose to pull out in your collection.

Back in the day... AH used to claim the market could only absorb two games a year in the wargame market. They also used this model for other 'genres' of games, believing that they were always marketing to the same customers, the customer's willingness or budget to purchase was limited to 2 titles per genre, and any titles over that limit would cut into the sales & share of others they released. They were real unhappy when competition showed up in the market.

So a shiney new penny syndrome implies a few different things. There's different approaches to gaming people have. There's the group that always buys everything new that fits the 'what's hot' and then there's the group that only buys once in a while but plays the games they do get until the game is worn to a nub.

I bet most people fall between the two extremes. And I'd bet that a fair number of game purchases are impulse buys as well.

The point you make is very interesting in regards to differences between wargamers and euro gamers with regards to playing older titles. I'm not entirely sure it's correct really. What I think you ran into with Settlers was the extreme of pursuing the latest and greatest, instead of the regular steady state playing that tends to go on.

What's driving this more than anything else though is the game publishers and their need to continue to make profits. And thus your question about what is a gaming classic from up to say 7-8 years gone by. Classics are more something people presume from the continued play, but maybe the thing you're witnessing is a greater sense that enough commentary has been made already, rather than those older titles being ignored. These may be titles which have their own web rings devoted to them like Settlers.

Perhaps, like the german excavation in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you're just digging in the wrong place.
 
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Walter OHara
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Gary:

By way of illustration, I owned about three or four wargames right up until about 1992 or so. Basic Squad Leader (and gamettes which I wont' count), Panzer Leader, Up Front, and a couple others. Plus some microgames like Illuminati, Car Wars and OGRE, and some RPG material. That's about all I owned.

I played the heck out of those games. So much so, I have replaced BSL three times, no kidding. I never felt particularly inclined to buy much more than that. Than, blammo! I'm better employed and more and more games are being published. More spending money, and an explosion of new titles equalled the inevitable result. Nowadays, I have more than four hundred games of all sorts in my collection, and I don't know that I'm playing any more games than I did back when I had a collection I could count on my hand.

 
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Chris Fawcett
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hotspur wrote:
Nowadays, I have more than four hundred games of all sorts in my collection, and I don't know that I'm playing any more games than I did back when I had a collection I could count on my hand.


Good one, Walt. The same is true for me, though the time when I could count the number of owned games on one hand was very short and a long, long time ago.

And I think I might be classified as a shiny new penny guy, except that most of the games that I've been acquiring have been the classics that I could never afford to buy when I really wanted to play them, and when they were the shiny new pennies of their era. I now have nearly 700 games (wargames, family games, some euros, some card games), and I get playing enjoyment from only a small handful anymore.

But there's the post that Ryan had earlier about the need to expand one's intellectual interests by seeing what new things are out there. I think that's what drives my game buying habits more than the shiny new penny syndrome.
 
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Sue Hemberger

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Funny how capitalism and intellectual pursuits share the same internal logic/dynamism.... devil

That said, I'm a person who thinks best (and enjoys herself most) when reading/playing extensively rather than intensively. For me, insight and creativity almost always require lots of different stimuli. But I don't assume it is (or has always been) that way for everybody.
 
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Job here, of the unmentioned podcast...laugh

I never thought you were being old fashioned... heck, most of the games I own are out of print. We just debated this a little in our last show, as the other guy in the show would disagree with you.

Using Walt's example: I drive a car till the wheels fall off, then I go and buy new tires. I also own a new motorcycle, and keep trading it in for new model each year. While I mostly drive my car (wargames) I do get out and ride my bike once in awhile (designer games).

I like my analogy better: I have a many friends but only a few buddies. While I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends I still, most of the time, would rather hand out with an old buddy. New friends are exciting but an old buddy is reliable and always around when you need him.

Sure, some games are dated, but many older game classics would still be a top seller if released today.
 
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