The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - April, 2003

Jacob Lee: I've been reading The Games Journal online for about half a year now. I was prompted to write after reading your front page article about how many readers you actually have. For the half year I've been checking out your website, this month is the first time I was waiting for the monthly update. So that is evidence you're doing a good job because there's some good quality on your site.

The content of your articles interests me and they're written fairly well. I would have to suggest, though, is that your site lacks a number of board game reviews. The ones you have are enjoyable to read (your Torres review pushed me to buy the game—good move by me), but you have so few of them! If you don't have people to write them, then I would offer reviews I've written. But that's the big glaring weakness I see with your website.

What you have is great - but what you don't have is more prominent.

GGA - I never set out with the intention of having The Games Journal be a review site, there are already lots of those available. (Check out our links for some good ones.) What I wanted was to create a site that was different, variety being seen as a good thing. I stand by this viewpoint and will continue to focus our efforts on general articles rather than on specific reviews. However, this does not mean that we prefer not to run reviews, far from it. We just wish to concentrate our efforts in areas that we think are being overlooked. We're more than happy to receive reviews for publication so by all means please send them in.

Originally I wanted to limit our reviews to games that I felt had been "overlooked". While I still would like to highlight such forgotten gems it's clear that our readers find reviews of recent games much more useful.

Larry Levy: A very interesting issue. Stuart Dagger's article on the beginnings of the German gaming juggernaut made for particularly good reading. Stuart's focus was on how this played in Great Britain, so the authoritative article on what happened in Germany during those formative years has yet to be written, but this glimpse into the British perspective was almost as interesting. One question the article raised for me was about Brian Walker, the editor of Games International that Stuart gives much credit to in bringing awareness of these new games to Britain. Where did this individual come from and what happened to him after the magazine folded? How much of an impact did he have on Mike Siggins? Very good stuff, Stuart.

I'd also like to compliment Matthew Gray for his entertaining crossword puzzle. I'm far from a crossword guru, so the difficulty of this one was pitched just about right. Another good job.

Finally, I disagree a bit with Greg's review of Fist of Dragonstones. I am no more of a fan of blind bidding than he is. But this is ameliorated quite a bit by the fact that most of the players' wealth is "fairy gold", which is replenished at the beginning of each round. I think this is the game's main innovation, since losing a close auction is not nearly as tragic a circumstance when you know the money you've spent will come back to you after a few more auctions. As the song goes, "it only hurts for a little while". This, for me, makes the blind bidding much more palatable. I also think it's quite possible to establish values for the various characters. This involves getting the feel of the session's groupthink, but for my group, at least, the bluffing element is probably secondary to the evaluation of the approximate worth of the characters. I think Fist of Dragonstones makes a pretty good filler, particularly since it plays with six.

Brian Drygas: Your article on Player Interaction in Games was terrific! You really expressed some very thoughtful ideas. Do you know of any more cooperative games other than Lord of the Rings, Republic of Rome and Scotland Yard?

GGA - A quick glance at the game shelves doesn't reveal anything. The closest I've got is Venice Connection which is as much a puzzle as a game. I've found that whenever it's played both players tend to examine both positions trying to see if either player missed a "guaranteed win". I've found that this is as enjoyable as playing a "proper" game. 

Stephen Glenn: "I hate this game."

That has to be the best opening line of a game review that I've ever read. Talk about capturing my attention and my interest [and making me, literally, laugh out loud]. I wanted to read every word of that article to find out exactly what you hated about the game.

For the record, I truly enjoy blind bidding games. I haven't played Fist of Dragonstones yet, but, ironically, from your review, it sounds like something I'd really like. So, congratulations -- you sold a game with a negative review!

I just hope you're in a good mood when you sit down to play/review Balloon Cup!

GGA - Stephen Glenn is the author of Balloon Cup, his first published design.

Todd K. In response to your Player Interaction in Games article:

The group I play with (3-8) players, I have kept statistics. Since 1999 I have kept track of: final points, high scores (a high score for 3,4,5, etc. players for that game), how many first, second, third, etc. place positions per person per game. 

We play once a week so your overall stats constantly change. I find that attacking the leader/loser tends to even out. Players are trying to increase their overall win/loss ratio. Players will attack third place to lock up second place so their overall second place finishes look good. 

After a few months when they look at their stats for that game compared to other players, they can brag. i.e. "I have more third place finishes than Bob who won 2 more games than I but Bob came in fourth more often." 

New players tend to do worse at games, but if they only play 3 games of El Grande and come in first once, their winning percentage is 33%. Compared to someone that has played 10 times and won twice which gives them a winning percentage of only 20%.

I was teased about keeping track of stats when I first began, but now the players are anxious to see how well they are doing.

To keep new players interested our 'club' has instituted a voluntary policy of paying one dollar every time you show up to play games. After the pot has built up to $60 we draw a name. The winner has to purchase a boardgame. You have more odds of winning the more you show up. This is working out well. If your name is drawn you buy a game you like. If you lose the draw you have a new game to play at the next get-together.

David Stewart: I've been reading your contributions since the start of Counter, I can't believe I only just found The Games Journal website, by accident!

I'll have to check back in Counter, but are you sure Mr. Dagger has plugged your website enough?

It is excellent.

Well done. I'm still in catch up mode, but felt compelled to write to you after you wrote about the disappointing number of contributions.

Sorry more people do not contribute, I tend to be quite lazy and like reading other peoples work. One feeling I tend to get from contributing is the feeling that what I have to say would be out of date, and not relevant to the next issue, or already spoken about in the past. So I tend not to bother.

I thought I would be able to write quite good reviews, but upon starting a review for Hellas, I found it surprisingly tricky. After spending half an hour scratching my head, and trying to be clever, I gave up. If only I could do that for a living! 

I think it's a good thing for your website to review older games. Taking away the pressure from people to always feel like they have to write about the 'newest' and coolest games. (I chose Hellas to review 'cause I hadn't yet seen a review for it, but I'm sure I could do an older game more justice!) 

I've also been impressed by the Funagain Games website which write up all the reviews from Counter a month behind. I'm surprised Stuart doesn't link in with your website to plug Counter, and do the same himself. (After SUMO, Counter is still the Bible) I remember reading your first experience of the Visit to Essen and I plan to go—I must go—it sounds fantastic. I think, for a collector like me, with over 300 games, it would be too much, and I'd overload. I don't think you get suitcase's big enough. That photograph you published with all those games!!! Aberdeen/SCOTLAND is very limited for games shops, and any trip into London, Playing Games/Leisure Games is a must.

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