Next One!

[this is guest post by Michał Oracz]

– Let’s play something. I’ve got some new titles…
– Ok, let me see what you’ve got… How about this one? Is it good?
– Um, it’s not very good. I’ve bought it some time ago, played a few times, it’s not working very well.
– Let’s try it, I’ve heard that it’s fine, lot of people praise it!
– Well, fine

– Do you have a manual?
– It’s ok, I’ll explain it to you. It’s easy, but quite strange… Well, Setup: In first two rows you place your pawns. You’ve gor black and I’ve got white. Those small should be in the second row, I guess, others in the first one. Goal: You have to take all of my pawns. You take them always when your pawn enters the square occupied by mine. Every pawn moves differently. Those small for example moves by one square only.

– Any direction?
– Yes.
– And this one?
– This is a Rook. It moves side to side, forward, backwards and diagonal. It can’t stop until it hit on another pawn, then you take it.
– Ok, And this one?
– This is a King, it moves by one square only and you cannot take it.
– Oh, it’s imba.
– I think so too. But this one is even better, you cannot take it too, but it moves as it wants, like a Rook but it can stop wherever it wants.
– All right…
And this one is a Knight. It moves in a sort of stupid hook way: Two squares forward and one to the right. All right, Let’s play. You start. Everyone move one pawn…

***

Do you know what game is it?
On the box it is written “Chess”.
But it was explained by the one who knows the rules because he “played it several times”.
I take part in conventions, I am walking around the tables and watch the games. Dozens even hundreds. Sometimes I see games which I know quite good. Sometimes I play games too. I see how we play and I am terrified.
We start… The game isn’t working at all. Hmm it’s crappy. What an idiot designed it.
The game isn’t working. Or maybe we just don’t play it properly. No… The game sucks and we have no time for rubbish. Let’s take another one, we will rate this one, maybe… 1? No, it’s not so bad, it’s just not polished up. I’ll rate it 3. Next one.
I’m not better.
Many times we have played popular games, and they didn’t work at all. After playing we were looking at each other and we just put it away with disgust.
“Last Night on Earth”. The nonsense. We have found out a perfect winning method in half an hour.
“Arkham Horror. It’s not working. And it’s boring.
“Shadows Over Camelot”. We have broke it. There is winning strategy. We have found it in an hour.
“Heroes of Normandie”. It’s not working. It’s unbalanced.
And so on.
But I’m more careful than my friends. I’m not talking around that this game is crappy, that they should avoid this game, that I’ve played it and it was bad. I’m not going to rate it 1, 2 or 3 and maybe if I’m graceful 4 or 5 out of 10. Why?
Because I know that we might have played wrong.
I’m conscious that I had no chance to experience this game well enough to rate it. I might have not like it, I have a right. But rate it? Unfortunately, I have right too. Generally, I have right to write and say whatever I want. Right is right, who forbid me? Maybe it is some inner honesty.
The author and testers played it thousands of times. I played it only four times. Every publisher organizes groups of testers – fresh players who tests rules, if they are clear. There are good players who play everything “for 30 years” so they will test every possible tactic and if the game is playable. Players who are specialized in statistics and optimization, they are looking for holes and winning strategies.
Am I a genius? Can I find all of defects in four games? Defects which have been omitted by the author and all the testers?

Of course. I am a genius. We like to think of us as a geniuses. .

On the other hand, I believe that if those are popular games the problem is somewhere else. I have some inner red light: Those games cannot be completely meaningless, be ease to break, or unbalanced. I believe that we were thinking it after those few games because we have played it wrong. Or even after dose of games, because we have played it wrong.

Indeed, we may play this game wrongly for our whole life – If the game works anyway it is ok. Every day a player is informed that he understood rules of his favorite game wrongly. And if it’s not working and we still play wrongly? And we play and we still think that this game is bad?

Situation with less popular games is even worse. With our attitude those games have no chances. Those games cannot defend themselves. There is no inner red light.

Meanwhile there is another question. Why have we played wrong? Maybe it is something wrong with the game?

It is not games fault that we are playing them wrong. It is because of complicated manual. When we play wrong it might be because we do not read them properly. We have to much information, we don’t have enough time for other things, we do not try to understand those games. We rate them very fast.

Do we have to read every manual and learn how to play every game like in school? We cannot have C, we have to have highest grade so we would be able to rate this game.

Of course not.

There is no obligation, we have paid for this game we can do whatever we want with this game. We can just have a look and play and if we do not like it we can throw it out. We do not live in poor country, we do not have to study every game we play, just because we have paid for it. We can afford it. The game has only few seconds to attract us if not: rate 1. All right it might be 3, dust on the shelf or trashcan… And the next one!

And maybe it is because of really bad games? Crappy games? Badly tested and published too fast? Are there game like this? Do you know any games like this? Is there a plague of game like this? Maybe there are game like this which teaches us how not to trust theit authors, testers and publishers? There is attitude that f the game is not working there is no sense in reading the manual because we wouldn’t find resolution there.

Mybe if the game isn’t working it’s because a fool designer it and another fool published it. In the group of foolish testers there was something missing – me. The experienced player who can spot every hole and mistake after few games? Who knows.

PS. I hope that fans of those games, we enumerated in this text, and the fact that they were example to this problem wouldn’t feel offended. Those games are excellent and we all know it.

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This is broken game.

I worked on Imperial Settlers for the past 8 months. I worked day and night. Every day, every weekend and every holiday. I was testing on Christmas and I was testing on Easter.  There was no way to get rid of the game, no way to clear my head and stop thinking about Imperial Settlers. You think about new cards when taking shower, you worry about balance when you get to bed. This is obsession. This is changing your whole world around one thing – Imperial Settlers.

The game is scheduled for Gen Con 2014 –  this is my most important release, this is the moment I was preparing for years, this is me debuting at Gen Con, biggest event in North America. This is it. This is the moment when I put on the plate all the best I have and I go to US and say: Here I am. This is my new game. Play and have fun. This is my moment.

But…

The games are not yet in US. They are at manufacturer.

It may happen that manufacturer will screw up, print something bad and we will need to postpone Gen Con release.

It may happen that shipping will have some problems and games won’t make for Gen Con.

It may happen that some documents will be wrong and customs will hold the game for few weeks.

It may happen that nearly year of my obsessive work and biggest event of my life will be ruined by a mistake of one person hardly involved in board games. Manufacturers worker, shipping guy, custom employee… A guy.

You can imagine how much broken, devastated or simply pissed off I would be if it happens.

 

Yesterday Japanesee referee – hardly involved in playing football – ruined months of preparations of Croatia players. He threw all their hard work into bin. He took their hopes and dreams about World Cup and said: Sorry, you worked hard, but I made mistake and all those hours you spent in training were waste of time. I can’t imagine how broken, devastated or simply pissed off Croatians are now.

Football is a broken game. I love it, but there are these moments I am so close to throw my TV off the window. Yesterday I had this moment. And as I can imagine, many of you had it too.

 

 

This is hell. And I quit.

It’s hot time. I mean it. It’s hot like in hell. Our office is quite a place, with mine cabinet, with our main office, with sales department office, with small warehouse, kitchen, with huge warehouse downstairs… And when I say it is hot time, I am basically saying that not all of these rooms have air conditioning. So you can imagine.

But of course, it’s not just about the temperature. It is a hot time in terms of production too. We’ve just published Ruins expansion for 51st State so there is lots of shipping to retailers and distributors. And lots of questions about The Ne Era (out of print) and Winter (out of print). Releasing Ruins was like awakening the beast. Now everybody is reminded about 51st State line.

We also released Mississippi expansion and we released it both as a 3.0 version and 2.0 version. All players who supported us for years won’t feel abandoned – we still support 2.0 version. So yes, now we have to explain to every damn retailer what’s going on and why there are two Mississippi products in our offer. We produced Polish, English and French edition. Quite a ride. There is lots of fun also because Mississippi is spelled MiSSiSSiPPi in English and MiSSiSiPi in Polish. So this is crazy when I produce marketing stuff for English and Polish markets and I have to remember about this small detail. I won’t lie. There was some misspelling these days.

Did I mention Origins this weekend? I am not there. Pitty. But I will be at Gen Con. And Gen Con is getting close. Oh yeah!

Gen Con operation. This is so much fun. It is going to be the adventure of the year. At this point I am no longer praying for wooden pieces for Imperial Settlers because they are ready. Now I am beginning to pray for safe shipping to US and for mercy at US customs. Customs may mess with our Gen Con release in so many ways. Just keep games for week or two and I am done.

But this is August issue. Now we are in June. In June we need to send files for Polish Resistance to print and answer all questions about reprint of Avalon. And reprint of Winter. And reprint of Convoy. And reprint of Robinson. And this one is huge. In March we announced that Polish new print will be available in late June. So since 8th of June we answer 10 phone calls per day about it. It seems that all retailers find 8th of June as a late June. And because we’ve just presented at our website that new print of Robinson has custom wood pieces and 7 scenarios and stickers for players pawns, and thick cardboard player characters sheets and basically looks fuckin’ gorgeous now we answer 20 phone calls per day from retailers. And you know, 11th of June is still not late June in my opinion.

Most retailers disagree with me on that point. Keep calling and calling.

Which is fun, because our sales dept guys, Mirek and Greg just shipped 500 copies of Boardgames That Tell Stories and are not in a mood to answer phone calls about Robinson every damn two minutes. But the best is coming. We just published Polish edition of Trait cards promo for Robinson and we will offer Beach expansion promo for Robinson next week. And today we put in offer whole line of new t-shirts for Neuroshima (8 different designs!). Yes, there is always something new to send to gamers! Our sales guys know no word ‘vacation’

So, yes, it is hot and yes, we are busy, but this is just a glimpse of things that run here. We have new scenario for Robinson (it was supposed to be published today, but I decided to give it one more final round of testing), it will be published as a free PDF next Wednesday and believe me – you WILL love it. I am so proud of it. This was few months of work. Believe me. In the meantime we work on Polish Pixel Tactics and we work on Polish Imperial Settlers and additionally I just finished my old design of kids game (Land of Shadow) and we are at the stage of writing down final rules set. This is Sparta!

Did I mention video trailer for Imperial Settlers?

Did I mention that this week there is Pionek con – biggest board game con in South Poland and our company is very strong involved?

Did I mention Portalcon, con dedicated to Portal Games with keynotes and presentations of our new releases and lots of events for our dedicated fans? It will take place exactly in a month, on 12th of July.

Did I mention that in 2 weeks I go to Spain for a week to run workshops about designing games and such stuff?

And that Michal Oracz is nearly done with Theseus expansion?

There is so much going on. This is crazy. I could work 24/7 and still I would need to catch up.

But there is one more thing.

Tomorrow in Brasil World Cup begins.

So tomorrow I am taking 30 days off.

I have no idea what will happen without me at office. But I believe things will sort out. Somehow. Wish my team luck. Boss quits.

This week on Twitter…

Boardgames That Tell Stories arrived to first bakers and made them happy! 🙂

 

 

Blightygamer proves he knows who rules at Trzewiczek’s

 

 

Artem believes solo variant for Robinson is too easy and has some ideas…

 

 

and Rhiannon reveals her husband winning strategies…

Hey, gamers! You can act better!

For 6 years I was organizing boardgames con called Pionek (Pawn). It was a great fun and a great lesson about gamers community. One of the events I held was a voting for the best game of the con. It had super simple rules – when you were leaving home, you were allowed to take a voting paper, write titles of 3 games you liked the most at con and leave the paper in a special voting box. From among all those who left papers with votes we randomly choose 3 people who win a free game. As you can imagine, voting was popular. Who doesn’t want a free game, right?

After the con I was the guy who open the box and count the votes. It was a hell of a lesson.

Let me show you some numbers before we move on – these are from three different edition of Pionek con:

One year 84 gamers voted for 65 different games.

Other year 104 gamers voted for 65 different games.

Other year 77 gamers voted for 81 different games.

You see that? There is no one ultimate best game. There is no one game that everybody likes. In a fact, the situation is exactly opposite. Every gamer has a different taste. Every gamer likes something different. Every damn gamer votes for different game. I run this voting for nearly 20 editions of Pionek con and it is always the same. The whole wide range of games that particular gamers find best. One loves Terra Mystica, the other loves Love letter. One loves Neuroshima Hex, the other loves Jenga. Look at those numbers. This is crazy.

Why I am telling you that? Why I am showing those numbers?

I try to show you that the game you love is not the best. And what is more important, the game you hate is not crap.

We gamers too often tend to go for a crusade. We often say that this or that game sucks and we give it 1 at BGG and we crash it in reviews, we go to the forums and we attack the game and gamers who like it. We can’t stand the fact that someone actually likes and plays the game we hate so much. So we fight. We make internet busy with our comments. We try to convince other players that they should immediately stop playing this shit.

Here is a deal.

I personally hate Terra Mystica. Worst game ever.  I don’t like Power Grid. I don’t like Trajan. I don’t like Summoner Wars…

So what?

Do I troll fans of those games on forums?

Do I publish negative reviews of those games?

Do I bully them on Twitter?

No. I simply don’t play them. That’s all.

I don’t like the game I don’t play it. I don’t bully people who like the game. I don’t visit their forums and tell them they are stupid. Please, act the same.

My message is: You don’t like some games so you don’t play them. That’s it.

Please, consider this mind blowing strategy.

Thank you, Mr. Delonge

Our hobby is developing in a great way. Year after year games are produced with better components, with better artwork, with better rulebooks and what is perhaps most important, with better rules. Games get better, year after year. 

If you take any game that was published 10 years ago (perhaps except Days of Wonder boxes) you will see how huge step our industry and our hobby made. The artwork of modern games is just phenomenal. The components amazing, with all these custom wooden pieces, plastic figures, huge boards and… You know all that. 

The games themselves? Amazing. Look at Doom and then look at Descent 2…

But!

Once a while I stumble upon a old gem. El Grande. Samurai. Tikal. Games that last. They were, they are and they will be brilliant.

This weekend I stumbled upon a game called Big City. Published in 1999 by Goldsieber Spiele (Rio Grande in US). Designed by Franz-Benno Delonge. This is one of these games. One of these that stay fresh, entertaining and simply brilliant even though published 15 years ago.

Best sim city type game I have ever played. Puts Suburbia and all other sim games in shadow and shines. Great, smart city building game. 

This weekend, when I was researching about the game and its designer I learned that Franz-Benno Delonge passed away in 2007. I learned that he designed Manila (what a cool bidding game!), TransAmerica (3 years before Ticket to Ride!), and many other great games.

Mr. Delonge, you put your mark on our hobby. I wish you are with us and design more great titles. Thank you for those you left us. Big City is a gem in my collection. I salute you.