The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - January, 2002

John Pelton: Thanks for the tip on repairing the corners. I'll try it. (I've used the white glue in the past and it sets up really hard and sometimes breaks, I'm going to try a caulk called Phenoseal. It sets up hard but is still a bit pliable. I use it on book bindings and it works fine.

Fen Yan: Mik Svellov brought this timer [GGA - G8 Game Timer] to my attention on the Yahoo mailing list for Das Motorsportspiel. I purchased one and it will be ideal for Das Motorsportspiel where timing is the key part of the game. Useful for my races are the large readout, time limit setting between 30 to 20 seconds, variable warning beep setting, and one-touch reset. For me, it's worth it. I think other Motorsportspiel fans will plan to use even more features of the timer, such as individual turn times and overall turn times (refueling).

As you said, a great countdown timer.

Gilad Yarnitzky: I've read Brandon Clarke letter about Princes of Florence and I have to disagree with his analysis of the game. If every thing works according to plan then yes it works (I even managed to play a game using similar game strategy, and won) however the basic assumption of needing only 3 buildings is problematic and can cause the failure of this strategy. Two buildings is very very rare, it means you got 6 professions divided between 2 large building. Never saw it happen so I'll ignore this case. You'll need 3 buildings if you managed to acquire 3 professions of a specific large building, 2 of a medium and the last one can be any building type. Getting the three professions of the same building can be tricky even with three players game, since more then one player might be planning on the same large building. So there is a pretty good chance that you'll need 4 building to be able to build all 6 profession. If you'll need the forth building you might need the second builder (to build adjacent buildings) and from here every thing goes down hill. Even if you do manage to need only 3 buildings then there is a good chance that you'll need all 3 freedoms, and this definitely hard to achieve, since this the game rules are designed to make this difficult (for each freedom there is one less then the number of players). In a 2 players game each will have 2 freedoms, in 4 players game only one might have all three freedoms, and in a 5 players game two players might have all three freedoms. So managing 10-12 points can be very tricky with a freedom missing or a building with no bonuses. This also means that you might not get the best work bonus and in a three player game if you publish on the 4 turn only with not the best WV then you might loose a lot of points.

Randy Schmucker: In response to Mikko Saari's letter in December I would add the following explanation for the rules of robot movement. The rules state, "When a robot hits an obstacle, it can either stop or ricochet at right angles, left or right, ...".

Here's one of way of interpreting the rules for robot movement. The key is the word "stop". When the blue robot hit the wall and another robot was moved, the blue robot must have stopped. Thus, at a latter time the blue robot could be moved "backwards". It's not really backwards. But only appears to be so. The rules never state that a robot has to be pointed in the forward direction in order to move in that direction as in contrast to RoboRally which does require rotations. This covers 99% of the situations in which a "backward" move might be used and certainly applies to this particular puzzle.

The situation not covered above is whether a robot can be moved immediately backwards without moving another robot first. The only time that this is a useful move is when there would be a one move solution which isn't allowed. In some cases one could then go the opposite direction and then rebound to the target chip and thus have a two move solution. However, the rules state, "On its way to the target space an active robot must hit and ricochet off (turn right or left) an obstacle at least once." Thus, this two move solution is not legal either.

If one wants to make a case for an immediate backward move being legal, all one needs to do is look at the physics of the situation. In order to change directions 180 degrees, the robot physically must stop its momentum and change directions. Therefore, it has stopped and can go "backwards".

If someone wants to bounce their robot back forth, that's fine with me as it only adds moves to their solution.

That sure turned into a lengthier explanation then I intended. :) Hopefully, it sheds some light on the consistency of the rules.

Alfredo Lorente: Perhaps it would be to your benefit to turn The Games Journal into a pay site. [GGA - See November, 2001.]

Volunteers are wonderful, but looking at all things games as a hobby does a disservice to the industry. It devalues good work, and poor-quality writing makes the industry as a whole look amateurish. Additionally, I feel that if an article is good enough to be published, the author deserves compensation. If the piece is mediocre, the author doesn't deserve to be in print.

For example, I could easily write some 1000 words on the lack of professionalism in the industry, and how that works to our detriment. I would even write it on spec. I wouldn't simply donate it, however. I couldn't even get a tax deduction for it.

Your ability to put out a quality publication monthly without having to pay professional writers for their work is admirable. It is also the exception, not the rule. Your generosity to all in this hobby is commendable, but I must wonder why is it that your time, energy, enthusiasm, effort, and knowledge producing producing The Games Journal doesn't deserve any compensation.

GGA - I can't agree with the idea that overall, volunteers do a disservice to the hobby. I do agree that authors deserve compensation though. I would dearly love to be able to pay our contributors for the articles they submit but don't see a viable way of attaining this goal. Based on the web statistics I suspect that our readership is anywhere from 1000-2000 people. If we made The Games Journal a pay per view site I suspect that we'd be lucky to have even a tenth of these pay a fee as low as $5 per year. So it's likely that we're talking about $1000 in total revenue but probably a lot less.

Furthermore you run into another problem that I can only refer to as "editorial goodwill". As it stands I rather enjoy the rather excessive hours that I put into publishing The Games Journal every month. However, as soon as money becomes involved my goodwill on this point becomes a little more strained even when the figures are as nominal as $5 for a subscription and $20 for an article. I'm far less willing to donate several hundred hours of my time each year to a non-volunteer project. Further, there's the issue that The Games Journal is actually a money losing venture at present. Frank Branham is the official publisher and he pays about $15US a month to keep us up and running. I think it would be unfair to pay anyone before this expense were taken care of.

Jack Martin: Angle bracket! Binder clips! Why didn't I think of those?

For the past few weeks I've been on a retro game-buying jag on eBay, expanding my collection back in time. I tend to take pity on and rescue the offerings whose equipment is in excellent shape, but whose boxes may have folded under the pressure (not to mention the corner surprises that arrive unannounced from the occasional seller who is less than forthcoming in the description of the condition). Not wanting to go the tape route, I got lucky right out of the box, as it were, by trying good ol' Elmer's Glue. Knowing I wanted to keep the repair job immobile while it cured, however, I settled on a less-than-aesthetic assemblage of weighted objects at hand: a brick (don't ask), a paperweight, and a large candle. I'm almost looking forward to having another splayed box show up in order to try out your much more economical and focused approach.

While we're on the subject, I'll share with you and anyone else who might benefit from my regimen—one physical, one chemical—for removing both price labels applied directly to boxes as well as unsightly tape from corner repairs. A hair dryer trained for a minute or two on the offending adherent will go a long way to loosening its adhesive, making it much easier to be (slowly!) peeled away, and much less likely to pull off the box paper in so doing (repeated applications of heat may be necessary if the peeling process is lengthy). If there is any residue left behind, apply Goo Gone to it with a Q-tip, wait a bit or work it in with your fingertips, and the bond will be completely broken and the residue wiped away. Goo Gone is also the way to go with old paper price labels whose adhesive has completely cured to the box—give it a good direct Q-tip soaking (ask me again twenty years from now, but excess Goo Gone appears to evaporate without staining), let it sit awhile, and it will be much more pliable.

Long live the long-lived games!

(GGA - The following is reprinting of an e-mail exchange between Tom Jolly & Curtis Anderson concerning Mr. Jolly's article: The Ultimate Game in the December 2001 issue of The Games Journal.)

Curtis Anderson: I've read your article, and I thought I would offer my responses. They are mostly skeptical or challenging, but I think that's the kind of response I usually have to revolutionary thinking. Maybe it's the most helpful kind of response.

Tom Jolly: The main object of the article was to provoke thought on the subject, and I see that it has succeeded on that account. Thanks for taking the time to read it. I'm not really sure it's possible to design a decent game using the concepts I've put down t here, but it sure as heck would be fun to try. My own preliminary attempts at it have been daunting, but I love a challenge.

Curtis Anderson: 1. Are you suggesting that once a certain critical mass of interrelated concepts is reached, the interrelations will generate some meaning? Would this meaning be generated in the "consensus link" the two players agree to? If so, I would ask first whether truly unique ideas can reliably be drawn out of the players, and if they can be, is the meaning really being generated in the players' minds, and not the game's?

Tom Jolly: I deliberated about that same question. I think that the "thought" that the game yielded would first of all be shaped by the mechanics of the game, and second of all by the consensus interlinks of all the players who have played. Thus, you can't just go into a game with your idea, you are carrying the thought baggage of the last XX players you've played with. It turns into a super-mind, somewhat like the internet has become (except for the self-aware part). And, of course this brings into mind the question of self-awareness and what it is. Is it possible for an entity derived from a million humans self-awareness to have its own?

Curtis Anderson: 2. If the beginning concepts are generated with language, how does the generation of meaning from these concepts differ from the reading of a book, or any other text in language? We don't think of a book as being self-aware, just because it draws meaning from our consciousnesses, or has meaning imposed on it (which I prefer to accept as the best description of the process) by our consciousnesses. And again, how can ideas generated with language be unique in the sense I think you're talking about? On the other hand, if the concepts are generated without a common medium like language, how are the players to reach a consensus when the concepts meet? Any other common medium would suffer from the lack-of-uniqueness problem.

Tom Jolly: That is an excellent point. It's the relationships we establish for descriptions of our environment (language) that allow us to create thoughts. If we are raised in sensory deprivative environments, it's physically impossible for us to think of anything, since we can't even imagine the things we mean to think about. Thus, a reference-language is required, which brings our personal biases into the group-mind. It's very nearly impossible to define self-awareness, though at this level it would appear to be a melding of individual awarenesses, but one must wonder, if this game functioned on some perpetual, continuous level, if it would constitute a sort of mind.

Curtis Anderson: 3. How does the board game's using its actions on its environment make the board game self-aware? Is a computer self-aware because it makes calculations a human wouldn't make, and then paints a picture based on its calculations? Maybe self-awareness would have more to do with a game's decisions being used by the game to alter its internal environment, instead, like changing the way future decisions were made (or the way future concepts were offered up to be combined, or the way they were combined). I guess this kind of action would also be considered evidence of learning.

Tom Jolly: That is a very elegant way of describing a self-aware organism; one that can modify its own behavior based on inputs from its environment. I think the game could be easily designed to do such a thing. Interestingly, some "nodes" would often cease to function (quit playing the game) and others might even be cancerous (purposefully bringing erroneous info to the mind), so it would be a good idea to design some sort of mental redundancy to the mind.

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