Monday, March 19, 2007

The box lies in the name of making another wait that's the marketing deparment.

How many players do we have? What games support that number? Oh, here's one that says it goes up to that number...let's give this one a try.


Then you find out the game that says it can support 6 players was specifically designed to be played with 4 and adding in the extra players really bogs the game down. Or maybe even worse it's a game that technically should be a 2 player game by all rights and well the box says it can be played 2 player but also with more. What about the worst of them all...the game that plays great with 5 players but the box says it can scale down to 2 players and while you are indeed going through all the motions of the sucks ass with 2 players.

Dammit! Game publishers need to not be so freaking greedy when they put the number of players on the box. Be honest with gamers and tell us exactly how many the game should be played with. Granted I feel certain the aim here is to capture that one more sale that might not have been made if the game didn't say that it scaled down to 2 player or up to 5 or 6 and I do understand in this niche market publishers need every sale possible. Still in the long run they hurt themselves. A game that plays poorly with a certain number of players will get generate negative reputation based on that playing alone. Have one particularly bad gaming experience in a game and chances of you wanting to come back and play it again in the future are slim at best...not when there are so many other great games out there. Then in this age of the the inner-web people with spewing their every thoughts out on blogs, forums, and community websites that can be a down right damning thing for a struggling game.

I've seen plenty of times where a game was bought specifically to be played with a number of players in mind, usually 2. The game clearly states that it can scale down to 2 players but let's face it, shouldn't! Then the person who bought said game is disappointed and lets pretty much everyone at the gaming group know...oh sure the caveat is thrown out there "but it probably plays much better with more players" but that little bit of taint has already been smeared on the game.

Let's take a recent example. Iliad is a brand new small box game by Asmodee Editions. Bravo to Asmodee on several fronts with this game. 1. it's a small box game and is just a card game but rather than stick some giant insert in a giant box with only a handful of components to give a perceived value they put it in a slim, thin box and everything fits nicely. The decks (there are I think 4 seperate decks in this game) as well as the rules and these three keen looking god icons. 2. The game looks great, fabulous artwork. 3. The game itself plays wonderfully....for 4 or 5 players. The game box however says it's playable at 2 to 6 players. First off play as teams. That's ummmm ok I your group but my group is a pretty aggressive group and we are to fucking win the game dammit! Now let's talk about 2 players. This is fucking stupid. You have to discard one of the decks and the god icons...essentially taking out a key mechanic of the game that makes each siege fun. Why?!?!? This game just shouldn't be played 2 player if you have to gut the system to make it work. 3 works and I'm not going to argue that but it's really kind of clunky just because there's not enough other objects to attack. With 4 or players the pain tends to get split up nicely amongst the players instead of "pound on the leader" mentality that the 3 player creates.

Alright so where is the other end of the spectrum? Where is the 2 player game that shouldn't allow more? Well this is truly out there but I'll agree it's more of a rarity. The easiest example for me to throw out is a personal sticky point for sure. I do believe that the game is listed as a 2 player game on the box but the designer and the publisher both will tout that it can be up to 6 players. The said game is Memoir '44. The nature of the game is player on player yet I've heard time and again that it plays well as 6 (and even 8) players if each player commands one section of the board...which is divided into three sections! WHAT?!?! Why the fuck am I going to sit there and wait to play 2 maybe 3 cards all game! That's just stupid. Being as this is just one game in the Command & Colors line by Richard Borg I'm sure at con's when he's showing his games he touts this wonderful feature about all of the game. Now I like Richard a lot and have sat at his tables and played the games. Very friendly and fun guy but this system is not for more than 2 players.

However one specific offender of this thought process is the Reiner Knizia game Knights of Charlemange. The game simply put had to be designed as a 2 player game then the thought popped up, hey if we opened up the row in between the tiles we could squeeze in a third players. Alright I'm actually ok with that except that the cards will run out sooner and create less options and less tension. Still printing on the box "a game for 2-3 players" just wasn't enough! That's right...4 players and now it's team action! Oh you've got to be cranking my cock. That's just simply put bullshit. A great little 2 player game but don't push it to something it's not.

The real crime of this through process I haven't even mentioned as of yet. What about the games that made it through the play testing process and have been approved by the publishers and released to the public. The game clearly states for 3-4 players...then almost on the heels of the release of the game comes the 5-6 player expansion. Oh just fuck me in the ass sideways why don't you! If this isn't a blatant disrespect to the end gamers. Several of these games just simply put don't need and cramp up the board with more players. All I'm asking here is that these publishers lay off. Expansions can be good, add new cards, give me new things to change the game up a little but more players being the main part of the expansion is just being greedy. Greed will hurt this fledgling hobby of ours. Embrace your games as the designers intended, put forth a decent marketing campaign for it and live with the results. If the game is good as a 4 player game it will sell. If you game sucks ass, it doesn't matter how many players you make it applicable to it's still going to tank.

Weird insertions and asshole designers.

Thank you Avalon Hill. Here is a game company that had the foresight enough to look at their newer games and say "That's just too much junk to have an insert. Why oh why don't more game companies make this crucial decision? The big open boxes of their newer large box games with a simple compartmentalized grid stuck in the bottom of the box is excellent. There's a big open box for you to bag all your pieces and store them in. Ahhhhhh that's how it was meant to be! Well done AH too bad you aren't still out there producing games these days.

Then you got Mayfare Games who insists on using the same insert for every game...of course that means their insert makes no fucking sense what-so-ever. What is that amorphis piece of black plastic that we see inside those smaller boxed games? Speaking of it...why the hell do we even have one in Catan the Card Game? I mean the whole frigging game is just a few square cards...does this really require an insert?

What about Phalanx...oh now here is a company who thinks everything has a place...damned right in a ziploc bag and thrown in the box dammit! Not according to Phalanx though. Take a peek inside Mesopotamia and you'll see the true example of a good idea gone hideously bad. A little spot for every little item. The biggest reason this is a problem is that there isn't a big BOARD to hold everything in place when the game is tipped or carried on it's side. As a tile laying game a board just doesn't exist. So sure enough components everywhere nearly every time you pick up the game. Some of their other games do have these highly defined and specific inserts too but the boards at least make an effort to hold all the bits in their rightful places...however if memory serves me correctly Maharaja, Revolution and Nero all use the same insert but that's got nothing to do with functionality just me taking a mental tangent for a moment.

Now I'm not usually one to make a big fuss over an issue like this because to me it's not an issue at all. If the given plastic insert of a game doesn't work then I simply remove it and throw the damnable thing away. I'll bag my components and toss them in the box. I have however heard time and time again that people don't want to do this because they feel they are throwing away a part of the game. You've got to be kidding me? This just annoys me. The mentality that you will keep something that causes aggravation, that's absurd.

Take the new Mission Red of the worst designed inserts ever...NO one should keep that atrocity. That was just about the first thing I did when I opened the box. Certainly as this picture shows you can get those rockets into the box but why in fuck's name would you want to spend the time it takes to put all those rockets in there in that kind of order when you can be...oh I don't know playing another game? Now everything is very neatly packed in plastic bags and I can hand the players all their colored astronauts and their deck of cards quickly and efficiently. I actually believe when the insert was designed they forgot about the rockets. Think about it they knew they were going to sit nicely on top in the sprus just no one considered what would happen with them once you punched them out! Mall of Horrors which is also by Asmodee has a very nice insert and everything is neatly stored, so the company knows they can do it right. Iliad has a very small insert (as it's a very small box game) but is just fine for what it does.

Seems to me every company out there goes back and forth on good/bad insert design. Uberplay did a great job with Motley Fool's Buy Low Sell High. You don't even have to back the individual stock pieces or worry about the cards. The board fits so snugly into the box everything stays in it's given compartment. WOW! Sunken City also seems to be very well put together and no issues there. Oasis on the other hand is the game you toss the plastic monstrosity and bag the bits. Right down the middle of the road comes New England....almost the same approach as AH with their new Risk rethemes but it has a lovely fall leaves printed OPEN area so you are forced to bag the stuff and throw them in the box. This is the way to go if you have a game that has a bunch of small parts like this. Well done over all Uberplay.

So see I'm not hard to please (got a few women who can attest to that) I just want functionality. When done right a larger insert I can appreciate the work put into it and will happily use said insert for the life of my game. Just don't be artsy for artsy sake. Make it work nicely and do what it's suppose to do hold the fucking pieces in the box, nice and neat. Alright I'm done with this topic.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Game's the thing....I don't give a fuck what you want to label it as!

Good God almighty! It seems like everything in the fucking world comes down to people choosing sides and never seeing any middle ground. No one it seems can just play games anymore they've got to play their "style" of game. Ameritrash/Ameritype Vs. Eurosnob/Eurostyle games. WTF is up with this now? Games are simply diversions from the bullshit we have to put up with through out each and every day. A moment in time where we can sit down with some friends (maybe not all friends but hopefully at least a friend is in the mix of gamers) and push around some bits of wood or plastic on a cardboard board, talk a little smack talk and enjoy yourselves. People can't seem to leave good enough alone though.

So these divisions have been brewing and members of the "community" have been taking sides, battle lines have been drawn and it was only a matter of time until the various little skirmishes blossomed into a full fledge firefight.

Ahhhhhhh and so it came with all the fury of...well a bunch of geeks posting flame comments on their beloved BGG and the outcast scrambling to setup their own Blog so they can find the support they needed to make them feel ever so loved.

Now I'm not taking sides here...mainly because I think both sides were stupid equally and therefore it'd be a slew of ridicule to both. I will say simply that I enjoy the website BGG. I find a lot useful things about it but long ago I decided to cut down the amount I actually post there. Still it's unarguably the best database of board games you can find. It's hugely flexible in your search abilities and well it's become WAY too important to WAY too many people. I've seen plenty of games I that enjoy get the shit beaten out of them by BGG populace just because it wasn't "Euro" enough or had dice and that made it all luck driven. Likewise I've seen games that I can't stand be heralded as the King's Condom. (That's my own distorted version of the "Bee's Knees" but you are going to have to figure out why that's a good thing on your own little piggy.)

People seem to take things way too personally when someone says they don't like their favorite game. Like they slapped their grandmother or something. Shit people do you know how many different styles of music there is out there? Well that's because so many people like so many different things in music. The same can be said for; books, movies, TV shows, and for crying out loud board games. Get a grip! Play the damned games for the game that it is trying to be. If you find you don't enjoy after playing it then that is fine, rate it properly, give your thoughts and don't play the damned game again. If you can't handle someone doing the same thing to a game you do like, I suggest the following and pay attention this is a very strict method of dealing but should help you greatly.

1. Stare blankly at your monitor in awe at the words you are reading that are causing you such tortured emotional pangs.

2. Close your eyes, rub them vigorously so that you see those funny shapes blurring around, then reopen them...hope against all hope that what you just read will now be completely different and will read exactly as your entry on said game's comments area.

3. When you realize the person is indeed still staunchly against your game slam your mouse against the wall next to your computer so it smashes into pieces, stomp around your room kicking whatever fur covered pet's might be in your way. Can't hurt to punch a wall or door, the goal here obviously is to damage the wall/door and not actually break knuckles in your hand but take what you can get.

4. Next filled with shame of your previous action curl up in a dark corner of a closet somewhere and let yourself indulge in a good cry. Be sure to be locked into the fetal position so you can feel your hands on your back and you can pretend someone who cares (like that exists!) is comforting you.

5. When you've got to take a piss after a few hours come back here and re-read this article. Now realize what a complete dick you are being. Smirk it off and go buy yourself a new mouse.

(For those who didn't follow was the 5 major stages of grief; Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression, Acceptance.)

Alright really, so now you are wondering where I was going? The point of this post is simply the point of gaming in general. To have fun. To not take things so stupidly personal. To be able to embrace gaming and games in general. Your opinion, review, rating of a game is not going to make me buy or not buy a game I want or don't want and mine shouldn't impact you either. Use my thoughts and comments (as I'll use yours) to gain maybe some perspective but that's about it. My point is that we don't have room for divisions in this niche market. If we want to see our hobby grow and expand we need to be at least accepting of all games. Otherwise outsiders who are looking to find a new hobby will see the stupidity (and trust me that's exactly what it looks like to them) and they will want no part of it. Let's all grow up, agree to disagree and play a fucking game already...although you might not want to play with me...I'm just going to beat. :)