The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - August, 2002

Keith Ammann: Good article. [Making the First Time Count] I would add just one thing, which was probably obvious to the writer but not to every reader: NEVER bring an unpunched game to a party. This applies whether the fellow players you're introducing the game to are longtime gamers or total newbies. Time spent punching the game is time for the natives to grow restless. Personally, though it means I'll never get to sell my games for beaucoup bucks when they finally become as popular as Star Wars figures, I punch every game I buy as soon as I get it home, then give the rules a cursory read-through so that I at least know what every type of piece is called. Those two simple steps make introducing the game to others so much easier.

Larry Levy: I enjoyed Mike Petty's article on teaching new players [Making the First Time Count] in last month's Journal. The only thing I would add to that is the importance of tailoring your approach to the group (assuming, of course, that you know them well). Some people want to know every rule before they play. Others get fidgety after five minutes of explanation and will start asking, "Can we play yet?" with increasing frequency. Depending upon the makeup of the group, you might decide to go over the rules completely, or start playing with only a brief explanation. Some groups respond well to "practice" turns; others will say, "Ah, come on, keep playing", even if mistakes were made in the first few turns. Keep your eyes and ears open to how the group is responding to your explanation. If you're getting a lot of questions, you may want to get more detailed. If people start shuffling their feet, think about explaining while you play. Keep flexible in your approach and you should have a bunch of happy (and hopefully, repeat) gamers!

Ron Hale-Evans: I'd like to reply to Mark Thompson's letter in the July issue, which commented on my board game systems article.

Mark, I'm glad you're enjoying my Game Systems series, but I'm sorry you thought I was gratuitously slamming Kadon in Part 3. I have a lot of respect for Kadon and their games; if you reread the rest of the page or two I devoted to Kadon's games, you will see that for the most part I praise them. For me to even consider Stephen Sniderman's expectation that his games will help people become "more humane, more thoughtful, less violent, less greedy" should show how much respect I have for the company. After all, I don't expect that of Checkers, or even Cosmic Encounter.

What I wanted to highlight was a contradiction in Kadon's ideals. If you had information that you hoped and expected would help make people more humane, less greedy, etc., I would expect you to spread it widely. It would seem peculiar for you to hoard the information, only let people see it who were willing to part with $50.00, and forbid them with copyrights to redistribute the info to others who might need it. To me, the situation is reminiscent (on a much smaller scale, of course) of the pharmaceutical companies who use their patents on anti-AIDS drugs to gouge the governments and NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa. So I'm afraid I can't agree, as you say, that "Kadon's business as usual is 'a service to the gaming community.'" BoardgameGeek is a service to the gaming community, Brett & Board is a service to the gaming community, and your Abstract Games site is a fine service to the gaming community, but I'm afraid that for all their extraordinary games and high ideals, Kadon's business as usual looks to me very much like business as usual.

Two incidental points: first, I never suggested that Stephen Sniderman place his games into the public domain; I suggested he license them under the GNU Free Documentation License or something similar. As I was recently reminded on the Icehouse list when I tried to contrast copyright and "copyleft", the GNU FDL and other GNU licenses are rooted in the laws of copyright. Second, if you care enough about the "intellectual property rights" of Kadon and their entourage of game designers to have written your letter to The Games Journal, why did you copy their copyrighted game board onto your Game of Y page? It just goes to show that "intellectual property" laws are an unnatural human constraint, difficult to obey even by people who want to.

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