Welcome to the cluttered attic of my thoughts. Mind the dust, hope you’re not allergic? Sit down, sit down! Can I get you something? Coffee, tea, something stronger? Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.
A few of the things that have been consuming my thoughts / bugging the hell out of me lately:
– I think the Eurogame industry is starting to stumble. In thinking back over last Essen’s offerings, there are precious few ‘traditional’ Euros on my own ‘highlights’ list. In fact, Navegador, Troyes and Merkator might be the only ones that really resonated with me. Amigo had nothing much of interest (apart from card games, where they still do a nice job), Kosmos was pretty ‘meh’, and even Hans im Gluck didn’t attract much interest. Is this just a temporary hiccup or have all those chickens caused by massive overpublication (i.e. way too many games published) come home to roost?
– It seems to me that the line delineating Euro from Ameritrash game can be most easily drawn in terms of game length. Is the game 2 hours long or more? Then it’s either a deep strategy game or an AT offering. Is it 90 minutes long or less? Then it’s a Euro or a filler (if it’s less than 30 minutes). Presto! Note: Vinhos breaks this rule, but then it breaks all sorts of rules. It’s actually a game that wants to be 90 minutes long but never had all the extra bits ripped out of it during development…
– I don’t think the mainstream US gaming industry is ever going to pay more than token attention to the wider world of games out there. Not enough money in it, to be frank. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Thanks to the way the web lets us all connect with whomever we want to / need to, I don’t need to see my games at Target or Walmart. And I don’t think I want to, either. It’s time to stop seeing “Our games are accessible to the masses!” as a victory condition.
– Dice hate me. I know this because I’m about, oh, 1 for a billion in making the rolls I need in Twilight Struggle. Consequently, I have never won the game. And after each loss, I find myself saying “That’s it! No more will you torment me, evil luck-fest!”. And each time, after about a week or so, I find myself wanting to play it again. If insanity is defined as doing the same thing but expecting a different result, then I guess I’m nuts…
– I have something like 90 Age of Steam expansion maps. Roughly 10-12 new maps are released each year, if present rates continue. I play roughly 4-5 new maps a year. Is the inherent flaw in this plan as obvious to everyone else? I could buy fewer maps, I suppose, but obviously a far better plan is to play more Age of Steam. If you live in the Vancouver area and want to play Age of Steam, shoot me a geekmail over at BGG, okay? I’m PatK over there.
– Someone recently paid $61.00 for a single Jean-Claude van Rice promo card for Ghost Stories over on eBay. Ho. Lee. Crap. I know Jean-Claude’s the rarest of the bunch, but seriously? That’s considerably more than the entire base game! It’s nearly double!! Man, time to put my own copy up for sale…
– My new favourite genre? 2-player card-driven games with strongly asymmetric gameplay. Twilight Struggle (or how I learned to keep getting hammered and love it) is the obvious poster child here, but Labyrinth (no, no the kid’s game, the GMT game about terrorism) is also quite strong. Which got me to order a copy of Wilderness War. And look speculatively at the Virgin Queen P500, even though that’s not 2 player and probably a game that will take about 2 years to get to the table…
– The recent madness for eponymous Mansions has gotten me to pull Fury of Dracula off the shelf again and hopefully read the rules in time for gaming sometime soon. They seem longish, yet I don’t remember the game being all that fiddly. I hope my memories are right and the hefty rulebook is wrong. In any case, it’s fun to see how a new game will sometimes get you to dust off older titles that have some similarities. Which reminds me, after the fun I had with Automobile I picked up a copy of Lokomotive Werks that still sits unplayed. Must rectify that soon.
– Only a couple more weeks until the Gathering of Friends. Once again I can’t go for the entire time, but at least this year’s event doesn’t feature my daughter’s birthday smack in the middle of it. I used to go to the GoF for the games, but these days I find it’s far more for the friends. The games are simply the social lubricant, the excuse to get together, if you will. Rumour has it the new location has a casino next door; perhaps I’ll get some other kind poker players to help pay for my trip!
i lust after your 90 Age of Steam maps
Patrick, I’m in general agreement with your first three points, although you feel more strongly about all of them than I do. However, I see no reason not to call my issues with the 2010 crop of eurogames anything other than a temporary hiccup, particularly since many others thought last year was a great one for games. We’ve seen off years before and the industry has always come back strong.
And yeah, I really like Vinhos, but wonder how much better it could have been if a world class developer had gotten to work on it.
Finally, I wonder how similar you’ll find Lokomotive Werks is to Automobile once you finally play it. There’s some thematic similarity, but mechanically, I don’t find the games to be much alike at all. Others feel differently, but give me my beloved Automobile any day!
Larry?? Really? To me they have the same basic mechanic. Now, there is differences in how the demand is figured out – player chits in Automobile versus the dice in LW – but the general shape of the two games feels very similar to me. It’s much more than thematic in my mind…
What Dale said – immediately after playing Automobile for the first time I saw a direct parallel to Loko Werks (which I’ve only played once). They are very, very similar games. I think I prefer Automobile because I feel like there’s a little more to it than Loko Werks, which is very straightforward.
Well, I guess I need to play Lokomotive Werks again, as it’s been a LONG time since I played it. Frankly, the connection to Automobile would have never occurred to me (that’s how different I view the two games), but when you get to be my age (after all, I’m almost as old as Dale!), your mind sometimes plays tricks on you.
I’m hopeful that the Seneca casino will have good games, but my experience with small rooms is long waits for a seat and games with 5-6 old, tight rocks who all know each other. With so many gamers in town, it will be blood in the water. The daily tournaments should be good, though.
To me what separates Ameritrash from Euros are:
Presence of dice rolling to determine a result (distinct from dice use in say Yspahan)
Rules chrome intended to reflect “realism”
There are no “rules” as far as this goes, only degrees. Vinhos is squarely in the Euro tradition, although it’s rules chrome does give it a little Ameritrash shading.
You might be interested to know that Here I Stand, the game to which Virgin Queen is a sequel, has a nice 2-player expansion. I’ve played it and, though it’s not as complex as the 6-player game, it’s a lot of fun.
[i]”I don’t think the mainstream US gaming industry is ever going to pay more than token attention to the wider world of games out there. Not enough money in it, to be frank. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Thanks to the way the web lets us all connect with whomever we want to / need to, I don’t need to see my games at Target or Walmart. And I don’t think I want to, either. It’s time to stop seeing “Our games are accessible to the masses!” as a victory condition.”[/i]
I was just browsing, without too much to say, until this gem (above) caught my eye. I think this is *extremely* well put and I 100%…. no make that 110%…. agree. And I think there is finally an opening for me to express a thought that never really quite makes it to the forefront of my conversations — the fact that I am actually a bit bummed about the fact that there are more than a few of you that didn’t think there was a good crop of Eurogames in 2010. Because fans of the genre deserve to see good games too each year. And you all deserve to see new games come on the horizon you also can get excited about.
The bottom line is this: Eurogames are good for the industry. They inspire better and more efficient design and they find new ways to utilize different existing boardgaming design mechanisms. PLUS they are a lot of fun for you guys and I certainly understand what it feels like to get excited over the joy of experiencing something brand new in a game.
In the end, we are all boardgame fans… and I want for all of you the same thing that I want for myself. We just have to agree our tastes are different in the end and that’s OK. Mine just happen to align with the common Joe and Jane out there that want it very quick, they want it reasonably simple and they want it lively, interactive and fun. We’re happy if we get a new A Dog’s Life, Monopoly or Scotland Yard… and you guys get something new and you’re happy too.
In the end, its about perceived balance, so there is a little bit of something out there for everyone…
So here’s hoping you guys get that banner crop of Euros in 2011…
A little something out there for everyone…
There are so many games still unplayed for me that I don’t really know how 2010 will eventually turn out. On the other hand, there weren’t many truly outstanding games — I agree it’s doubtful that it will turn being a great year. But I have yet to try Troyes, Merchants & Marauders, Vinhos, Labyrinth, Dominant Species, Runewars, C&C Napoleonics, Key Market, Florenza, Merkator, or any of the Winsome Essen set — and I expect to like at least a few of those! I enjoy Prosperity and 7 Wonders, but not nearly as much as most. The new Sid Meier’s Civ game was OK (1 play), but I prefer Through the Ages. Defenders of the Realm was more fun than Pandemic, but I don’t love fully cooperative games. Alien Frontiers was ruined for me by that one take-that orbital station. And Innovation was a real disappointment after all the hype: I don’t want to take the time to get to know all the cards — heck, I could just go back to Magic if I was into that any more! — and without that, it plays an awful lot like that F-game with the 2 x’s … something you’re just doing for the ride.
Wallace fanboy that I am, though, I did very much enjoy First Train to Nuremburg (which perhaps shouldn’t count for the year since it’s a reworking, but the changes are significant enough for me!) and I will probably like Boze Igrzysko (4-player reworking of God’s Playground). Age of Industry was solid, too. I also had fun with (one play) Navegador — I do like me the rondel! And of course there’s Fresco; I don’t go gaga for it, but it’s a solid game (I even liked it OK in its basic version, although it’s much better with the included expansions).
Anyway, I’m in the same boat as you re: Age of Steam expansions — they keep coming, and there’s never enough time to play them! I’m not in Vancouver, but I could be electronically … ever think about trying to play on VASSAL? Clearly the experience is not as good as face to face, but at least you get to see the expansion maps in action. There are Yahoo groups for both Steam or Age of Steam ….