Let’s play… outside the box

It was a game of Elysium. I didn’t pay enough attention when the rules were explained and it cost me a lot from the very beginning—I had no idea what to do.

And then I saw a card with an artwork by my favorite illustrator—Vincent Dutrait!

I grabbed that card and looked through the deck if there were any other cards that he illustrated. Indeed, there were.

I smiled. I had my goal for that game! Collect cards illustrated by Vincent Dutrait. Those cards only, and none other.

As you can imagine, this tactic didn’t bring me many Victory Points, but my tableau looked amazing and I called the game a win!

***

We sit and play a board game with an obvious and clear goal—to win. If we play with a different goal in mind, we may ruin the game for somebody else at the table. Other players assume that our actions will be reasonable and lead us to victory. They adjust their strategy accordingly to that assumption.

If we start playing like a madman, doing random stuff, play in an unpredictable way—we will ruin the game.

That’s bad. That’s not why we play at all. But…

***

If we come up with a little twist for our strategy, if we announce that new goal and we make sure we will not spoil game for other players… it might be worth a shot. Build 7 buildings during a game of Citadel, each with a different value on it. Collect the most monsters in Kemet. Pick only the ugliest spouses possible in Legacy and build the ugliest family in the game.

Did you ever try playing outside the box?
Which game? What was your goal?

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Enemy Number One

I’ve been there. I wrote Neuroshima RPG, put my heart and soul into it, made the game successful in Poland and then I became the main enemy of the fans of the game.

I couldn’t understand this. I was really shocked when I was reading mean comments on the Internet about me ruining the game. Fans were disappointed with the game’s expansions, or with the lack of expansions, or with the price of expansions, or with the artwork, or whatever. There was always–always!–a reason to complain about the Neuroshima series.

I was their main enemy. That jerk. That fucker. That Trzewiczek-the-asshole. The guy who ruined their beloved game.

I was sitting in front of my computer and I wanted to scream. Hey, guys! I am the one who created the game. I am the one who wrote the book you love. I am the one who gave you hundreds of hours of great RPG sessions. Why do you hate me?

That was tough. I learned the lesson. This year I’ll turn 40. A wise man, this Trzewiczek, has now become.

***

We are afraid of change. Change is always something unknown and we don’t like the unknown. We like the stuff we know. We feel safe with the stuff we know. There is this famous quote from a Polish movie that goes: ‘The songs I like the most are the songs I already know’. Pretty accurate, huh?

Announcing a new edition of the game is announcing a change. A publisher is telling you that the game you know, the game you love, the game you spent hundreds of hours with is going to change.

Let’s face it. These changes cannot be good. It’s obvious that they will ruin the game. Why would they change it in the first place?! Leave the game alone, you [redacted]!

***

A couple of days ago we announced a new edition of 51st State. The famous Master Set. The BGG threads went hot.

“F**k, this is the one thing I wished they kept”

“Horrible changes, the hype for me is dead.”

“It just sounds like they gutted all the things I found most interesting”

and so on and so forth.

First of all: it’s not ‘they’. It’s me. There is no Smoking Man who stays in the shadow and is ruining your game. It’s me. The guy who created the game in the first place in 2010.

I spent the last few months polishing the game and making it better. I removed a ton of rules that were not necessary. I rebalanced the cards. I made it quicker and more riveting. It’s either me or you now, there is no time for a ‘we have five rounds’ stroll as in Imperial Settlers. Just this weekend Merry crushed me at the end of the third round. That was something I did not see coming. You feel the pressure from the very first turn. Either you make your engine going or you are out. It’s a gamer’s game for real.

But even though I know the game is better, I know I will disappoint many fans of the game. I have no doubts about that. Because…

***

I’ve been there. I designed 51st State, put my heart and soul into it, made it the game successful worldwide and then I became the main…

 

edited by Piotr, thank you!

I poke you. It’s your turn.

So we were playing Sail to India and even though I liked the game, I had these moments of lack of concentration – when Merry and Ralph were doing their turn, I was checking my Twitter and Instagram feeds. At some point Ralph poked me in the arm. “It’s your turn, man” he said. “Oh, sorry. What did you do?” I asked him.

In response he gave me that look. He looked at me with his eyes telling me: “You were not paying attention and you were twitting all the time and now you want me to kindly describe you what I did in my turn?”

That look.

So I shut up and I did my turn. And then I put away my Iphone. No more twitter feed during the game.

***

I am active user of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I post photos of games I play, I banter about games on Twitter and I love the fact that I can discuss games with people from all over the world.

But…

At some point I might forgot that playing games is a social experience that involves real people sitting right in front of me. I might forgot that I should talk with them not with my Twitter feed. I might forgot that it is good – waiting for my turn – interact with them and have fun with them, not with my smartphone…

It’s cool to make a photo of the game and post it on Instagram. It is cool to post something interesting or funny about the game and share your thoughts with the world.

But it is not cool to sit with 4 friends at the table and stare at your Iphone all the time.

***

When I was at Gen Con I saw that sadly it was not only my problem. I saw that many geeks were distracted by their smartphones. I saw geeks who hold cards in one hand and their iphone in the other. I saw people checking their FB/Twitter/whatever every time they were done with their turn.

That sucks, people.

I say it loud and I say it honest – I was there too. I was social media freak too (well, I still am!). I was acting like jerk. But I am acting better now. Still, when I play board game, I take a photo at the beginning or at the end of the game. I post or tweet funny comment or my thoughts about the game after it is finished. But for the whole game I try to keep my smartphone in the pocket. I try to not get distracted. I try to be social… to people who sit with me at the table.

What can I say more. I poke you guys. It’s your turn to act.

Don’t turn your back. Act!

DISCLAIMER: NONE OF YOU HAS EVER TROLLED ME. THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT TROLLING ME BUT ABOUT TROLLING IN GENERAL, IN OUR LIFE AND IN GENERAL OVER BOARD GAMES FORUMS. I AM SUPER LUCKY THAT PROBLEMS I DESCRIBE HERE DO NOT TOUCH ME IN THE ENGLISH INTERNET. THEY, HOWEVER, TOUCHED ME VERY HARD IN POLAND. THAT’S WHY I DECIDED TO WRITE THIS SERIOUS POST.

WELL, ONCE A YEAR I AM NOT THIS FUNNY DUDE FROM POLAND. THAT WOULD BE TODAY.

 

 

English speaking geeks treat me super kind. With one or two minor exceptions, I did not meet any English speaking trolls and haters so far. I am like living in a dream where every person in the Internet is kind and nice. I know this is not true picture, I know that Internet sometimes is not a nice place, I know there are trolls and haters but well… I didn’t meet them. It’s like living in a fairytale.

What’s interesting, it is exactly opposite here in Poland. In Polish board games forum I am the most hated person. If you remember what was the reaction of people when they heard that Ben Affleck will be new Batman – that’s exact kind of reaction I get here in Poland each time I release new game. And you know, I am not exaggerating. Really, it’s super nasty here.

Last week I withdrew from Polish board games forum. I asked admin to remove my account. After nearly 10 years on the forum, I withdrew. Trolls and haters had their victory.

***

When you were a kid and saw one kid bullying other, you probably did stay in defense of bullied kid. When you see some jerk acting bad you of course act. When we see inappropriate behavior in real life, it is our natural reaction to act and defend person in need. To help people who need help is obvious and natural reaction.

It’s not a case in the Internet though. When we see troll bullying other person in the Internet, we rarely act. We think: ‘Oh, it’s just troll, just ignore him.’

Let me tell you – this ignore policy doesn’t help bullied person. It doesn’t stop troll or hater. It only makes him stronger. It let him think that he can do and write whatever he wants to and no one will stand against him. Bullied person in the Internet is alone. You face trolls and haters alone because others just ignore troll.

For the past few years, from the moment I published Stronghold I was bullied in Polish Internet with tremendous strength. Every week there were attacks, nasty comments and hate all over me, sometimes including even my family. I was fighting back, I was trying to defend, but for the most time I was alone.

There was me, haters and ignore troll policy. For years. Last week I gave up.

***

Board games industry is an amazing industry – there is no wall or something like that between customer and producer. We gamers can easily interact with many publishers and with many designers. They are active on game forums, they are active at conventions, they are within our reach. You can have Antoine Bauza sign your copy of his game, you can have cow sketch in one of Portal Games box, you can tweet to Eric M. Lang, you go to the pub and have a great time with Stephan Buonocore from Stronghold Games… This is one big family and I find it truly amazing. I love all people who work here. This is great crazy family.

Family that can very easily be attacked by trolls. We are so open to gamers, that some asshols just can’t wait to take advantage of that. So here is my honest request – when you see troll attacking our family, fight him back. He is trolling us just like bullying someone in real life. You wouldn’t turn your back in real life, wouldn’t you?

Don’t turn your back in the Internet too. Protect our family.

Don’t let haters win. Like they just did here in Poland.

 

Handicap!

Ancient game go has a handicap rule. Player who has smaller experience begins the game with few his stones already on board, set in the exactly chosen spots. That way he has an advantage at the beginning and will be able to play tight match against better player. Simple and brilliant.

Better player doesn’t need to fake that he is doing his best. Better player doesn’t have  to play with 50% of determination. Better player doesn’t accidentally make mistakes. He is doing all his best to get the opponent, who began with better position. Go teaches us to respect the enemy, respect the game and respect engagement.

*

I use handicap rule for all different games when I play with my children. I give them starting bonus, some advantage and then no mercy. I give my best. I struggle with them and I am serious. I show them my determination, my will to win, I show them how with a good moves I can do better in the game.

I teach them how to play better but what is more, I teach them right attitude – when you play, play your best. You own this to your opponent. This is showing respect.

I do my best when I play with kids. I can do this because handicap.

*

When I play X-Wing with my son, we play without handicap. Every time he kicks my ass, this  is because he was better. And he knows it. This is pure satisfaction for him. He knows he won, because he was better. He knows I never fake when I play. I was teaching him that for years.

And you know, even though I loose, I am damn happy. It is so cool when your son kicks your ass. He is better. And in these moments I am proud daddy.