Van Helsing – Not much blood in the veins

Design by:  Frederic Moyersoen

Published by:  Mayfair Games / Sirius Products

2 – 5 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour

Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

I enjoy a good horror movie.  Not the “slasher” movies that are filled with unmitigated blood and gore, but rather the classic-style movies involving a scary monster or some hideous creature.  These films arouse in me a sense of terror and impending doom, making for an entertaining, albeit frightening movie experience.  As such, I am always intrigued by board games that utilize a horror theme.  Sadly, most of these fail to evoke anywhere near the same feelings or atmosphere.  There are a precious few exceptions, but I’m still searching for the definitive horror game.

Van Helsing from designer Frederic Moyersoen (Nuns on the Run) immediately caught my attention for two reasons.  One, I am a sucker (heh, heh) for a good vampire movie or game.  Second, I thoroughly enjoyed the campy, yet highly entertaining Van Helsing film starring Hugh Jackson and the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale.  My hope was the game would capture the foreboding atmosphere of the former and/or the fun excitement of the latter.  Sadly, it does neither.

What we have in Van Helsingis a retreading of a familiar and tired theme of hunting Dracula.  Most players represent four main characters from the classic Bram Stoker novel, working as a team to pursue Dracula in his own castle and ultimately destroy either him or his harem of ghostly brides.  To accomplish this task, they must search the various rooms of the multi-level castle, hoping to find useful weapons and tools. One player assumes the role of Dracula, whose goal is to destroy or convert the hunters into loyal minions.

The confusing, dark and terribly small board depicts the three levels of Dracula’s castle, with each room and corridor numbered for movement purposes.  Most rooms receive inverted counters, which when revealed can be useful items for either the hunters or Dracula himself.  Mixed amongst these counters are Dracula’s eight brides.  Even Dracula doesn’t know the location of his wayward mistresses or the items that will prove useful to him. While this helps in the game play, it makes no logical sense.  Clearly Dracula is a terribly forgetful housekeeper whose memory simply isn’t what it used to be.

Players each receive a character board listing their identity and providing space for their blood points and items collected.  Sadly, there is absolutely nothing unique about each character.  Granting each character a special ability or power would have at least help distinguish them.  They could just have easily been named Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3 and Thing 4.  Characters split an initial collection of six objects, but again, there is no incentive to give certain characters specific items as none have unique abilities.  Sad.

Dracula begins each turn by secretly plotting his movement, marking his final location on a small pad.  Unless he searches for an item or crosses the sometimes confusing line-of-sight of a hunter, his location is kept secret.  If any brides have been revealed, they also move at this time, but may only move one space per turn.  Apparently they lack the nimbleness or stamina of the Count.  If they are located in the same room as Dracula, they may move with him as he moves.  After Dracula completes his actions, the hunters now execute theirs.

Both Dracula and the hunters have as many action points as they have blood points.  Dracula initially has five blood points, while the hunters each have four.  These will diminish as damage is suffered.  Action points may be split amongst movement, searching for items, using objects and/or attacking.  Moving is from room-to-room, with hunters being blocked by locked doors until they successfully locate the keys.  In a horrible design flaw, locked doors are marked with wooden cubes.  Sadly, the board graphics are WAY too small, and the cubes occupy most of the space, obscuring other relevant board features.

Characters may stop in a room and search for hidden items.  The counter is revealed, and the player may opt to take it if he can use it (hunters cannot take items reserved for Dracula, and vice versa) and carry it (characters can only carry a number of items equal to their current blood point level.)  If one of Dracula’s brides is revealed, the counter is replaced with a corresponding figure.  Players can win by eliminating five brides, so finding them is a major goal.  Of course, if the player is unarmed, finding a blood-starved vixen can be dangerous.

There are a variety of objects that can be found and used.  Some are weapons, and are useful in combat against Dracula and his brides.  In a radical departure from traditional vampire lore, Dracula and his brides can be harmed and even killed by standard weapons – knives, guns, etc.  Other items include health kits, keys, maps ladders, garlic and more.  All of these are beneficial to the hunters.  Dracula is more interested in goblets of blood, bats and, of course, his brides.


When Dracula and/or his brides and a hunter meet, combat will ensue.  A hunter must have a weapon to attack and must roll equal to or less than the number listed on the weapon counter.  Most weapons cause one point of damage, enough to kill a bride.  The dreaded stake causes two points of damage.  Dracula begins the game with five blood points, so it can take some time to destroy the vile creature.  Of course, Dracula can and usually will strike back, using either his claws or teeth.  When attacking with his claws, Dracula must roll equal to or less than his current blood points.  Biting is more difficult, but more damaging.  When biting, Dracula or his bride must roll greater than his / her target’s blood points.  So, the stronger the hunter, the more difficult he is to bite.  However, if the vampire strikes vein, the hunter suffers two points of damage. Further, if the hunter’s blood points are depleted by a bite, he instantly becomes a vampire doing the bidding of Dracula.  All is not lost for the new minion, however, as there are blood transfusion kits that can be used in an attempt to bring the hunter back from the dark side.  How convenient to have those lying around the castle!

The hunters have two paths to victory:  slay Dracula or five of his brides. Dracula wins by escorting four of his brides to his coffin or by killing or turning all of the hunters.  It generally takes about an hour or so for one of these events to occur.

Van Helsing is a disappointment.  First, there really isn’t anything new here.  It has many similarities to “dungeon crawl” games and other search-and-destroy games.  Search a castle or dungeon, find useful items, and try to slay the monsters.  Roll dice when attacking, inflict damage, and repair damage using useful items.  Each time I played I had the feeling that I’ve played this game dozens of times in the past.  Same old, same old.

Further, the game is extremely basic, which I’m sure was the designer’s intent.  While this makes it more accessible to families and non-gamers, it has unfortunately resulted in a game drained of excitement or life.  Characters have no special or unique powers and thus no flavor.  There are no action cards or real surprises.  Everything simply plods along in a dull, familiar fashion.

I am also bothered by the liberties the designer has taken with vampire lore, as well as the logical lapses.  As mentioned earlier, vampires are not damaged by traditional weapons.  Here, a gun, knife or crossbow can not only damage but even kill the blood-suckers.  Further, why would Dracula leave potentially deadly items scattered about his castle?  Why doesn’t he know the whereabouts of his brides?  I’m fairly certain that these departures from traditional vampire lore were done to help make the game work, but for me they detract from the authenticity of the experience.

Lest I sound too harsh, Van Helsing would likely make a fine family game.  The game is reasonably easy to learn, in spite of the unnecessarily brief and vague rules.  Its simplicity makes it easy for folks to understand, and it can likely be played with competence by even young children.  Perhaps families are the target market, as the game is too simple and basic for game hobbyists.  Horror fans – particularly those intrigued by Dracula and vampire lore – will be doubly disappointed.  The game fails to evoke much of the foreboding atmosphere that permeates the various novels and films that focused on the genre.  That is truly a shame and a huge letdown.  My search for the definitive horror game continues …

Rating scale:
4 – Love it:
3 – Like it:
2 – Neutral: Greg Schloesser
1 – Not for me:

About gschloesser

Greg Schloesser is the founder of the Westbank Gamers and co-founder of the East Tennessee Gamers. He is also a prolific reviewer of games and a regular contributor to numerous gaming publications and websites, including Counter, Knucklebones, Boardgame News, Boardgame Geek, Gamers Alliance and many others. Greg has been a gaming enthusiast his entire life, growing up in our hobby mainly on the war game side. His foray onto the internet exposed him to the wonderful world of German and European games and now nearly all of his gaming time is devoted to this area of our hobby. He travels to several gaming conventions each year and is the co-founder of Gulf Games, a regional gaming get-together held in the Southern USA. Greg was born in 1961 and lived his entire life in New Orleans before moving to East Tennessee in 2005. He is married and has one daughter (now married.)
This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Van Helsing – Not much blood in the veins

  1. David Lund says:

    That’s disappointing. I was curious about the game when I saw that Mayfair was going to carry it.

    Just a small nitpick: the male lead in the Van Helsing movie was Hugh Jackman (not Jackson).

    Thanks for the review!

  2. Ryan B. says:

    I don’t know, Greg. The whole tenor of your review is that you are against the game… but you ultimately wind up giving it a neutral (2) rating? That doesn’t make sense. Perhaps this is because you deem it to be acceptable for a *family* game. But in your review, your comments about the game being “family acceptable” sound a bit like a last second throw in.

    So I admit I’m a bit conflicted here. I appreciate that Opinionated Gamers even bothers to review these types of games. Heck, I even asked/begged/pleaded for them to do so. But in reading actual reviews of *gateway games* … by “gamers”… it appears that they are less and less qualified to review these types of games. Simply because as you review from a strictly gamer’s perspective, anything less than a deep, intellectually stimulating, perfectly innovative game experience gets ripped on as less than worthy. I often wonder how Ticket to Ride would fare in today’s game review environment? I already see some of the seeds of discontent about that game on BGG from gamers who have supposedly evolved from that game. But lets face it, even today, that game is the best gateway around. But you have to accept it for what it is.

    As for me, I’m not saying Van Helsing is a great or even good game… in fact your synopsis of it seems very logical at times. But your typical family or “gateway game” player isn’t going to care so so much if the game is an absolute exact matchup with Dracula lore. As long how the theme presents is not unreasonably ludicrous, most regular people will be fine with it. They just want to know if the game is fun or not.

    I left your review not coming away with that answer. I still love your writing in general but clearly family style games need to be reviewed with a different audience in mind.

    Ultimately, this review strikes me like a F-1 championship driver reviewing the 2011 VW Jetta for how well it navigates the road course at Silverstone and looking for it to compare favorably to a Scuderia Ferrari F150.

  3. Greg Schloesser says:

    Hey, Ryan! “Neutral” to me equates with the “5” rating common on a 1 – 10 scale — a scale I much prefer to use. The game is blatantly average. It has no terribly special qualities to entice me to play further. However, it isn’t broken or horribly flawed. While I would prefer not to play it, I likely would not run for the hills (which is easy to do in East Tennessee!) if someone requested it. From the Opinionated Gamers rather limited scale, the “neutral” rating best reflects this assessment for me.

    Family games are a bit challenging, as I do expect them to still offer some enticement for more dedicated gamers. There are dozens of family games that I’ll happily play as they not only entertain my family, but still offer fun, excitement and/or challenge for me. The greater the fun / excitement / challenge level, the higher my opinion of the game. Van Helsing would make for a decent family game … just not one that offers a great deal of enticement for gamers.

  4. Larry Levy says:

    Good response, Greg.

    Ryan, I’d be willing to bet that the majority of OGers would rate Ticket to Ride in the Like It/Love It range–quite possibly the vast majority would do so. There are good family games and bad ones. I think you’d find the good ones held in reasonably high regard here.

  5. Ryan B. says:

    Hey there Mr. Greg “f-1 champ” Schloesser , : )

    How ya doing? Well, you know I love your writing… perhaps the a redefinition of the (2) rating or an expansion of the scale is in order for Opinionated Gamers.

    I personally think it is very hard any more for gateway style games to stay simple enough to still appeal to family audience and provide enticement for dedicated gamers… simply because I think the expectations for enticement in a game have risen so dramatically for gamers. For instance, to illustrate the point: by all accounts Mystery Express is seen as a cleaner game experience than Mystery of the Abbey. But Mystery Express is the 872nd ranked game in the BGG database and Mystery of the Abbey is ranked 613 in the database. If Mystery Express was released in 1996 instead of 2010 and Mystery of the Abbey was released in 2010 instead, I wonder how both would fare?

    Cargo Noir appears to be a decent enough game. Great art, simple rules, very easy to access and a great theme. As a 2011 release, it got a fairly substandard review here and ranks 1787 in the database. I my review upon playing it may be similar or different. But Days of Wonder has taken the rare step of publicly asking gamers to give it more of a chance… so they have a lot of confidence in the game. But how often have you ever seen them do that?

    My concern is that in the now constant quest to seek “more”, some otherwise potentially solid gateways will get overlooked. This may not apply to Van Helsing, in particular but the broader argument is one to keep in mind.

    Summary: Because family games have to remain inherently simple enough to be accessible, it is much more difficult for them to offer enticement for the expanding needs of the dedicated gamer.

    Summary2: I still absolutely love your writing man. : ) Don’t worry, I’m still a fan. Just passionate about the agenda and as always, with the different perspective. (LOL)

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Ryan B. says:

    Larry,

    As always, you say the sky is red. I say it is blue. We *might* agree there is a sky. (LOL).

    I give your comment a “7”.

    Cheers,
    Ryan B.

  7. Lucas Hedgren says:

    Ryan,

    Couple things:

    1. Re: Larry’s comment, he mentions that the OGers are probably not as biased against “family games” as you think, and then you make the “red/blue” comment. What are you implying? That he is wrong? On what basis? The fact that Greg didn’t like Van Helsing? Then you add the classy “7” snipe at Larry?

    2. Re: OG bias, it sure seems like you are looking for something to advance your “agenda,” whatever that might be. You give Greg a hard time about his review of Van Helsing, which you have never played. You bring up the example of Cargo Noir as a game that should be given a chance by gamers, yet you haven’t played it. (Although you do rank it in your top ten games on BGG despite that fact.) Did you read the Keltis article, that was full of praise for the line, and plenty of likes and loves for the SdJ winner and followups (read: family games) ?

    As Larry said, there are good family games and bad ones. There are good complicated games and bad ones. I think you will find the OGers a pretty diverse set of gamers, willing to give all types of games a chance, despite what some might think. Personally, I really like a lot of different types of games. For recent stuff, I just discovered Summoner Wars, and love it, I adore Troyes and Burgund, and Pergamon was a snazzy little family game that I just tried.

    Why does there need to be an agenda? Why can’t games just be judged on their merits? Why can’t people just say “Here’s what I think about this game,” without all the baggage of some perceived agenda against a class of games that you are admittedly a champion of?

  8. Ryan B. says:

    Lucas,

    1. Larry and I have a history that goes way back. My thought is Larry is always going to articulate the company line, no matter what I say. Which he is entitled to. Larry’s not *wrong*… but he and I most certainly see the world through a different lens. I don’t see Larry’s comments with the same “angel’s wings” you ascribe to his remarks. But that’s just how I feel about it.

    2. I’m not giving Greg a hard time about his review. I think his comments back to me bear out that he understands what I am speaking to, even if he may or may not agree. Which I can respect. I AM having a “give and take” discussion with him. For those who wonder why I have expressed such great respect for Greg in the past, his response is a prime example as to why. He holds his ground in the discussion while at least considering the alternative viewpoint in a respectful way. That’s what a discussion is supposed to be about.

    And he make me feel as though he respects my viewpoint in doing so. I feel many of you write to *who* is making the statement and just on that instinct rush in to defend them. I can respect Greg immensely (which I do) but I don’t have to agree with everything he says. Hopefully, he considers my viewpoint as well. I took the time out and wrote my viewpoint for him… out of respect for the effort he put into his review. But again, I don’t have to agree with him initially…. hopefully the conversation evolves and we find common ground.

    3. You’re darn right I have an agenda… and you do too Lucas. Everyone does. And the “merits” of a game can be debated precisely on the agenda that someone has. My concern (and agenda) is that *gamer writers* have got publishers, in general, running slightly nervous every time they don’t produce the next Caylus. And no one can seemingly put out a gateway game anymore without worrying it gets shot down right out of the gate.

    For me that means less games for me (and others) to pick from. I’m just a Simple Sam that wants a game that I can roll out to my friends, in short order, that doesn’t make them go “huh”?

    Ya know…. I count too, even if I am not a gamer.

    Heck, you’ve got Kevin Nesbitt at Stronghold Games running polls to see what components should be included in the Survive game. You could argue that he is just providing great customer service to gamers… or you could argue that he is trying to head off problems with a very arbitrary gaming community that could sink the sales of his game.

    At any rate, I tried to support my arguments with some facts to give some thought to ponder on. Someone may put a different spin onto the interpretation, but that’s OK. If I learn something or someone changes my mind… hey, that’s cool man. Whose to say? You haven’t changed my mind about the issue, however.

    And pontificating about my various intents while throwing out that you enjoyed Troyes and Burgund as a gateway seems a bit farfetched to me. However, if you ever see Troyes and Burgund retailed on a Target shelf sometime soon, I will write you out a check for the cost of the game.

    Finally: what I put on my BGG profile is my own business, Lucas. It’s my profile. For me. And guess what? I’m pretty comfortable about my sense of what works for me in games and what doesn’t. My BGG list is for me… not for you. And so while you can criticize it, I don’t really care.

    However, since I’m going down to play Cargo Noir right now, I’ll let you know. : )

    Cheers,

    Ryan B.

  9. Lucas Hedgren says:

    Replying to clear up one apparent point of miscommunication. My list of recently played and liked games was meant to represent different types of games, AT (Summoner Wars), complex euros (Troyes and Burgund) and family-level complexity (Pergamon). It was not my intention to hold the middle two up as gateway games, nor was my list meant to be exhaustive of the types of games out there.

    As for the rest, I guess we’ll just have to disagree as to whether there exists any anti-gateway bias in the industry, on the OG, whether its ok to discuss someone’s public boardgame profile when talking about games, and whether Cargo Noir is good. :)

  10. Ryan B. says:

    Lucas,

    We just got done PLAYING Cargo Noir. (LOL)

    I liked the game overall and it pretty much is what I thought it would seem to be. My parents are in town and we played with them. My dad was a little frustrated that bidding could be extended into multiple turns at the ports, as he felt the game would be better if it could be resolved during the same turn. That seemed to be a point of discussion as we played. Otherwise, I think I understand why the rule is in place from a design standpoint… but the rules did seem a little hazy on the issue, so I want to seek clarification before giving my full thoughts.

    Just so you know, I don’t mind if you discuss my public BGG profile. I just don’t care what people think of my ratings for games…. on something I set up with with *me* in mind. That’s all I mean when I say it my own business.

    So you didn’t do anything wrong or mean-spirited, from my perspective, by bringing it up as a topic. Like you said, it’s public. But my BGG profile is just about my personal “likes”; not what I hold up as the standard for anyone else to follow.

    So you’re good with me, man. : )

    And you may be right about the opinion that an anti-gateway bias does not exist in the industry. I’m not sure it is one of those questions you can answer 100% in either direction. So it’s a concern I have… and I think some industry self-assessment is good for people to at least consider.

    So I’m off to the BGG forums to ask a few questions… all the best, Lucas and hope you have a great afternoon…. one that maybe even involves a few games. : )

  11. jeffinberlin says:

    If anything, there is a pro-gateway games bias in the industry, due to the obvious advantage of better sales for the publisher. That’s what the Spiel des Jahres encourages, and, on your side of the pond, those are the games that are absorbed into publishing giants like Hasbro.

    Any new gateway game that does something new–while still having simple and elegant rules–is highly regarded by casual gamers (target audience)–AND gamers who are always looking for games they can bring out on all occasions. The best games are, of course, those that can appeal to the widest audience. For this reason, I absolutely love children’s games that are so well designed that adults also have fun playing them.

    For these reasons, I do, however, agree with Ryan that a negative review ending with, “but it could be OK with families” is a little weak. The truth is, just about any game will go over fine with some family somewhere. That’s why “Chutes and Ladders” and many others are still best-sellers. That doesn’t mean its a well-designed family game, and I think it is fine to point out that there are plenty of other games in that category that are much better (Ticket to Ride, being an obvious choice). I’d always assumed the ratings category “not for me” meant “I’d rather play something else”–not “horribly broken.” It’s still relative to the reviewer, and it’s assumed that there will certainly be other people who would enjoy playing it (the designer’s family must have liked it, after all!).

    As far as agendas go, I think Ryan has, by now, added at least one “Days of Wonder” tattoo on his arm?

  12. jeffinberlin says:

    One point I forgot to mention: I can perhaps understand Greg’s rating after having the pleasure of gaming with him at his home once. He is one of the most enthusiastic and accommodating gamers I’ve met, and I doubt there are many games that would make him “run for the hills” if a friend insisted on playing it.

    I’ll have to suggest “Chutes and Ladders” next time I’m there, just to test my theory:-)

  13. Ryan B. says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Yes, Greg certainly is one of the nicest guys in the industry. And also a person who considers all perspectives.

    And then I would have to say I am the next nicest person. (LOL) And while no Days of Wonder tattoos yet, I do have a full length wall mural of Mark Kaufmann in my home. With wall to wall Mystery of the Abbey gameboard carpeting…

    Seriously, however, I have taken my fair share of critique to the boys in Los Altos, CA. I guess no one remembers my issues with BattleLore and Colosseum. But I admit that I think no other company comes close to having better gateway games on a consistent basis, than Days of Wonder. They are also an extremely well run company from a business standpoint.

    But I have a question for you Jeff… I agree with you Jeff that there *should* be a pro-gateway games bias in the industry, due to the advantage of the potential for greater overall sales for the publisher.

    Why do you think then there are so few quality American/English gateways around that would appeal to the mass market…especially relative to the overwhelming number of gamer games then? I realize that question is somewhat ethnocentric … but that is the market in which I find myself. : )

    Cheers,

    Ryan B.

  14. Brett Myers says:

    Greg,

    In the interest of fairness to the designer, I’d like to point out that in Stoker’s novel, Dracula is killed when his throat is cut by Jonathan Harker’s kukri knife and his heart pierced by Quincey Morris’s Bowie knife while he is being transported in his coffin en route to Castle Dracula. Certainly, Helsing’s rituals have become a part of vampire lore, but obviously they were not necessary to destroy the Count (or were they….?).

  15. Larry Levy says:

    Ryan, I think the answer to your question of why there’s so few gateway games is a little involved. First, coming up with a game that does this well isn’t all that easy. But to reinforce Jeff’s point, there are no shortages of these kind of games in Europe. Most of the recent SdJ winners qualify: certainly last year’s game, Dixit, along with Zooloretto, Niagara, and probably Keltis. If you look at the nominated and recommended games over the past couple of years, there’s a bunch of games that might fit this description: Pandemic (an outstanding case), Roll Through the Ages, A la carte, Tobago, Jaeger und Sammler, Mosaix, Fauna, Finca, FITS, Cities, Pack & Stack, and maybe Fresco. So as Jeff says, publishers are encouraged to produce games like this and they do just that.

    So I think your real question is why there are so few gateway games that will appeal to you and your friends? In other words, those that follow the American design ideal of a strong theme and heavy player interaction. My first thought is that games like these tend to be produced by American companies and in order for it to make sense for them to produce games like this, they need a sizable population to sell to. In Germany, that’s not a problem: lots of people will buy at least one new game a year, even if it’s only the SdJ winner. That is very much not the case in the US. The companies with a sizable audience to sell to, like Hasbro and Mattel, couldn’t care less about innovation, and why should they? They sell jillions of copies of standards like Monopoly, Risk, and Scabble every year. So the average US publisher, which is pretty tiny, might well prefer the small, but very enthusiastic gamer population, over the vast, but largely uninterested, general audience. Even larger companies like Fantasy Flight tend to do better when selling to the smaller crowd that really likes more involved American-style games.

    DoW succeeds because they have made it their focus (and, of course, they produce all kinds of games, not just gateway titles). It’s also a necessary strategy, to some extent, for a company like theirs, which chooses to produce only 1 or 2 games a year: they need to have wide appeal in order to be profitable. But even DoW hasn’t always succeeded with their efforts, which I think is indicative that this isn’t the easiest gambit to pull off.

    Are publishers missing out on an untapped market by not providing the kinds of games you crave? I’m not sure I’d agree with that–these are pretty smart people and my guess is that they know their business. And the outlook might not be quite as gloomy as you’re making it out to be: Hasbro and Mattel are at least experimenting with their brands in the last couple of years and Z-Man, for one, includes quite a few family-friendly games in their large output every year. But yes, overall I’d agree with you–there aren’t that many American-style gateway games that come out and the reason is probably that the audience for these games isn’t that big, isn’t at all organized, and is certainly largely unaware that games like this even exist.

  16. jeffinberlin says:

    I’m sure your hospitality would rival Greg’s, Ryan:-)

    There are plenty of European gateway games brought to the U.S. courtesy of Rio Grande, Z-Man, FRED, and others.

    But, as Larry says, even the games that you like are not widely known-or even accepted–by the average U.S. consumer. I remember not long ago reading how a Texas newspaper panned both Ticket to Ride and Incan Gold as games that were both pointless and overly complex!

  17. Ryan B. says:

    Jeff,

    Depends on your definition of hospitality. (LOL) Game nights at our house more or less resemble a roller derby free for all. But they are a lot of fun.

    Anyway, I agree with your points and its doesn’t surprise me that a Texas newspaper would say that about Ticket to Ride. The world population’s attention span is being reduced to nil. I have friends who think the rules to many of my games take too long to learn sometimes too. I still think that a niche can still be carved out… my greatest joy is how pumped up some of my friends are *after* playing my games for the first time. But they always seemingly go into those sessions like they are indulging me just a bit.

    ——–

    Larry,

    I was waiting to jump. Pounce. And when I read your first paragraph and you were throwing out names like Tobago, Jaeger und Sammler, Mosaix, Finca and Fresco I was starting to roll my eyes. But then you put it into the context of the European market and I was good.

    The rest of your missive was extremely well put together and makes for some very solid discussion points. If I’m being honest, it’s all a pretty airtight argument right up until the start of your last paragraph.

    But I would submit that Days of Wonder is the only company that has tried to consistently go after my market. Ticket to Ride proves they can go get it AND be successful in doing so. Even Settlers of Catan has managed to accomplish the same feat… although I still can figure out how. I just don’t like that game. But it is what it is.

    Bottom line: Yes, there are a lot of game companies. But a lot of them *don’t* know their business. Which is why you keep seeing game company after game company fade away and all new ones coming in to take their place. One can blame the economy or what not… but I’m still willing to wager that how well these companies execute on their business plans leaves something to be desired. Certainly, however, some aspects of the economy are not making things easier for them.

    Overall, I don’t think things are gloomy, however. My argument (agenda) is narrow: I just want to make sure there isn’t a chilling effect on the production of gateway games because of the limitations publishers face in trying to make them the next great “gamer’s game” as well. I happen to think that game reviewers have a potent say in how that goes down. But I can’t comprehensively prove it, of course.

    Your very last thought was absolutely spot on, Larry. You’re 100% correct I think… and therein lies the challenge (opportunity) in the market.

    ———-

    All right now boys, I’ve exhausted my piece. Let’s let you spend some time talking with Greg about his review of Van Helsing, shall we? Time for your crazy insane gaming uncle to get back in my rocking chair, sip some lemonade, tug at my long white beard, shake my cane at the sky and finally nonchalantly slumber off until once stirred again. : )

    And Thornquist, what can I say? Rick probably wakes up, reads my latest ramblings and wonders what the heck is up with this guy since the Gamefest days? Then he probably grabs a bran muffin, goes about his day and doesn’t give it another thought. (LOL)

    Just be thankful ya all aren’t playing me in “I’m the Boss” (LOL). And you think I yap here? Oh, my.

    Cheers,

    Ryan “Crazy Uncle” B.

  18. Larry Levy says:

    Ryan, this has developed into a very interesting discussion and one that I was glad to be a part of. The points you make in your last post are definitely compelling. The thing is, I’m no business man, so when I say that the publishers probably know what they’re doing, it’s a pure guess on my part and one I could easily be dead wrong about. Certainly, if there’s room for one DoW, it’s not hard to imagine there would be room for one or more others. So it’s hard for me to say with any confidence that your main argument isn’t correct.

    In the end, it may come down to a bit of “grass is always greener” thinking by both of us. I know that many of the people I play with and communicate with frequently moan about what we feel is the glut of simplistic games that come from the major publishers these day–where are the great gamer’s games of yore? While you and your friends carry on about all these themeless, complex games that get all the buzz–what about something that’s actually FUN? There’s probably some truth in both of those statements, but there’s also plenty of gaming goodness of the kind that we crave that surrounds us as well. So maybe we should just take a deep breath and be thankful that we live in a time where, to a large extent, there’s something for everyone in this wonderful hobby.

  19. Very descriptive article, I liked that bit.
    Will there be a part 2?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s