Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Games as debilitating and possibly lethal diseases

Todays Subject: Tenjo

Here I present you with a game based in feudal Japan where Samurai's and Shadow Warriors lead amies into battle on the...shiny The high gloss blackness outlined with gold lines that squiggle...and funny 4 pointed star castles...wait this doesn't even come close to resembling a map of Japan...fuck it doesn't resemble a map board at all? A casual passerbyer would swear you were playing some game based in space as the Daimyo figures even resemble some sort of power generating tower. OK the shadow warriors are very nicely sculpted figures but then given everything else is so abstract looking they seem out of place! This mish mash of art is best thought of if you were to imagine the works of Salvador Dali, mixed with Georgia O'Kieff (without the images conjuring thoughts of vagina's) and highlighted with a little Andy Warhol (only without so much color.)

This game when you view the entry on BGG has been listed on such geeklists as:

The Worst Game You've Ever Played
Worst. Wargame. Ever.
Game Breakers Part II >> Flawed Rule Designs
Diminishing Marginal Values >> Or, The More I Play These Games, The Less I Like Them
Games I hate, despise, loathe, and spit upon. (By Tom Vasel of all people!)
Longest and most Painfullest game I've ever played.
Games you just HAD to get rid of...
A-Z: The Worst Board Game for each letter of the alphabet.
Noble Failures
Games I hate. (part 2)
I Don't Have Time for this Bulls**t!

And to a lesser extent:
Games I desperately wanted to love -- but couldn't!
Decent Games that are Nonetheless Broken

Game Companies that no longer exist

I mean when a game is bad enough to make someone craft a GeekList AND invent a new word (Painfullest) to describe how bad it is...certainly there's merit to this notion.

The propaganda reads:
The peace that existed in decades past has vanished. A new breed of warlords has emerged. Among these men, authority depends on the ability to wage war. Each seeks to control and unify the nation.

You command a fearless army of Samurai soldiers, Daimyo generals, and secret Shadow Warriors. Your military strength is immense.

However, to acheive victory you cannot rely on military strength alone. Fear, greed, trust, and deception may be your most powerful weapons. You must anticipate your enemy's ambitions and understand the true nature of man!

In the end, only one can rule the nation. Will you be crushed by your enemy? Or will you have the ability to become Shogun!

As any good propaganda does, this makes the game sound intriguing, engaging and even fun. Much like reality though when the propaganda is stripped away what you are left with is embareassment, fear and overwhelming feelings of being perpetually lost.

Yes feudal Japan wars can be fun and to be honest there are some kind of keen ideas going on here with Tenjo. I like that the armies are single chips with a number on them representing the army size. These chips are played face down so you can easily have a stack of 5 chips that are 5,000 units or a stack of 5 chips that are 50,000 units and your opponent won't know until a) he attacks this stack or b) you attack WITH this stack. Neat! I like the border points giving you control of a province. See in order to get your round end "bonus" you have to control an entire province. The problem is to control it you have control ALL the border points of said province, yes these are shared points between this province and it's neighbors. So in order for you control Province A you will have to make it so no one else can control provinces B, C and D. This makes for some nastiness.

So without going into a full blown review here (because this isn't a review) let me give you the lowlights of the game.

The biggest point of contention I have come from the GeekList above about broken rules (in which Tenjo is the FIRST game listed and probably the main game that spawned the list) and it reads as follows:

Tenjo's promise - excellent bits, compelling theme and interesting mechanics - are all dashed by the overly harsh mechanic of rolling 1d10 at the beginning of your turn to see how many actions you have. It's so wildly chaotic that you could conceivably have 1 or 2 actions per turn while your opponents have 9 or 10. And the game is unforgiving enough that there isn't enough time for it to truly average out.

Far better mechanics could have smoothed this out, and there are numerous ways this could have happend: Rolling 2d6 for a more predictable curve of actions, alloting "action cards" you designate each turn (a la Carolus Magnus), bidding VPs/money for actions or turn order, being able to purchase extra actions if you're below a certain thre
shold, having each person roll and "drafting" the results based on game position, etc.

While I am not opposed to dice (I LIKE dice games actually) it just seems that dice are often opposed to me...see the name of this blog for reference to that. :)

The down time in this game is unforgivable. In a five player game it would not be unreasonable to expect 20-40 minutes in between your turns. Trouble there is the game really does not offer much to keep you in it between turns. I mean yes if an opponent attacks you, you battle but if they attack other opponents and not sit...and wait.

Highly overpowered card system. I'm a HUGE fan of action cards. I've even made up mock action decks and rules for Crokinole! I think all games should have action decks. These cards are either useless...or ungodly and seem to not have any in between nicely playable cards.

Despite everyone else raving about how beautiful this game is, I think it's crap and does very little component wise to encompass the theme and setting of the game. The components are of good QUALITY and as mentioned the one nice piece...doesn't fit with the style of the rest of the crap.

A "never out" but "fully useless" mechanic. So let's say you are getting stomped. You fought the good fight but to no avail you feel your mortal coil slipping from you...but as a player NO you do not get to escape to the sanctuary of another (good and enjoyable) game. NO now you are Ronin and must wander the aimless blackness of the board doing pretty much nothing but bothering people. It's possible for you to come back from being ronin but if you do you'll be weak and easily stomped again. STUPID...just let me be out of the fucking game already.

So boiling it down we come to the analysis portion of this article...what disease does Tenjo best compare to?


Yes Alzheimer's is the disease and Tenjo is the game. See it's not one of the "cool" diseases where you get to talk to your friends about it as most of the time people afflicted don't know they have it! Well Tenjo isn't one of those games people go "Hey have you ever played Tenjo?" and you can respond "Yeah I've played and didn't like it." NO You bring this one up and get looks from people that are easily read as "Well you are the idiot to have played it, sounds like a horrible game you deserve the misery you felt playing it."

Alzheimer's patients often revert back in their minds to earlier times in their lives and no doubt when playing Tenjo you will constantly be thinking back to other gaming session where FUN was present. You will even fondly be remembering the moment you said "Yes I'll play Tenjo" and gleefully you will imagine yourself choosing another answer other than yes.

Alzheimer's completely incapacitates it's victims and with Tenjo...Ronin are useless. You can not effect the game as ronin and you can't redeem yourself either.

The effects of Alzheimer's is severe and watching a person degrade from this disease you can't help but think of the power it has over a person's brain. Tenjo's card systems can completely unbalance the game and put you under pressures that you are not able to free yourself from.

In latter stages of Alzheimer's a person's actions (if they are able to move that is) and their words become confused. In their minds they can fully be living in a different time period gone by making what they say and do unreasonable and confusing. Rolling 1d10 for action points? Let's see if I were a ruler in Japan and my enemy just used 8 action points to amass an army outside my castle's walls...I guess it doesn't make much sense that I'd only use 1 or 2 action points to slowly start bringing in reinforcements! Never the less this is the logic this game generates. FUCK!

So there my friends. Tenjo as Alzheimer's Disease. Do yourself a favor...get rid of all you aluminum frying pans to help avoid Alzheimer's and never....never sit down to a game a Tenjo, unless you really are that much of a sadist.

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