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The De-Uglification Project

Ray Smith

May, 2003

Let's take a quick poll. Raise your hand if you ever bought a game because it looked so cool or gorgeous that you had to have it, but later discovered it had major snafus from the get go. So, you either cannibalized the parts to be used in a more deserving game, tried to fix the existing system into a playable game, or palmed it off on some poor schmuck on eBay. Being a tinkerer, I prefer the former two resolutions - a little of this, a dab of that, and you have a respectable game.

Now, how many times have you winced and closed your eyes, but still opened your wallet to purchase a totally uninviting, bland, or hideous game because it was a great game to play? I would venture to guess that most of us have been burned from the glitz and dazzle more than buying a game, going "aurgh", then reaching for a wooden stake and mallet. Correcting a truly horrid looking game is a bit more difficult task since, in my opinion, the components are sixty percent of the value of the game. Would I really want to play this game more if it wasn't so revolting?

In response to this conundrum, I thought I would try a test case and initiate the great De-Uglification Project. This was somewhat inspired by a Moritz Eggert entry on BoardGameGeek, where you could nominate the ugliest games or components to a list. Some entries I would not call ugly, but allocate to the bland category. For example, most games from TimJim or Cheapass I truly enjoy even though their monochrome motif drabness is somewhat of a turnoff. Some games are in the wild category, such as the map board for Sorcerer (SPI). A perennial favorite to ridicule for its florescent hex terrain. A great game, but be sure to have your lava lamp going to set the mood.

For my initial De-Uglification venture, my vote goes to Die Oster Insel. A fun little game with a cool idea, but an incredibly "bleckk" board -- A football field after a rainy overtime match. A lovely mixture of puke green, brown, and gray. The other components are equally bland, but workable. There is not much to elicit the mystery, awe, and beauty of Easter Island beyond the giant Moai as player pieces.

Below is a rendition I created to spruce up the game with minimal changes to the rules. It was created using a basic computer draw tool and some downloads from websites.

Die Oster Insel

Amended rules for the new board.

NewOsterInselBoard.jpg (234922 bytes)

All original rules apply, except for the following:

  • Start on the circled space of your Moai's color.
  • Choose a direction for all players to travel around the island - clockwise or anticlockwise.
  • Obelisks are placed on any photo in either half (1 or 2). Two obelisks may also be placed on one photo. If placed on a 1, it is picked up the first time around the island; If on a 2, it is picked up the second time around the island. Acquired obelisks are placed in order on the bonus track, gaining the shown number of bonus stones. [Note the change of the reward of bonus stones. I thought the previous awards were a bit too much and swung victory unfairly.]
  • Players move their Moai only on their matching color spaces.
  • Game ends when a Moai reenters its start space for the second time (i.e. two trips around the island). Place your matching color chip on your start space the first time you pass it. [I've added two each of matching color chips to the components to not only mark one circuit around the island, but to show which player is playing which color Moai.]

- Ray Smith

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