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.

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