The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - June, 2002

Richard Huzzey: I think I'd easily agree with you about the book issue. [Letters, May, 2002] Without wishing to labour the point, just as you might buy, for economy, a fun holiday novel, you might get a Cheapass Game in its economical but fragile box (or, until recently, envelope), you'd want a copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare or The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for your shelf, perhaps, in a deluxe, long-term presentation, like you might want a copy of Diplomacy or Chess.

Clearly Cheapass Games' "not bundling a VCR with a video tape" argument is a factor in their production, but I think its also the idea that, like your £5 Bridget Jones' Diary paperback, you won't exactly treasure a copy of Unexploded Cow and let it replace Britannia in your games cupboard. Of course, for those of us on tight budgets, its a bonus too.

David Cronkite: Thanks for mentioning this great game. You're correct about the origins being Canadian; Ontario I believe. There is probably less than a handful of books about Crokinole and the authors appear to be unanimous in their confusion about Crokinole's origins.

We used to play it at a friend's farm here in Ontario (Kemptville near Ottawa) and what a blast we had! It is certainly an addictive and skillful game. Without a doubt it deserves a place in every household.

Kevin Mills: You wouldn't happen to know of any articles or surveys that would reveal which season board games are most popular in, would you? I've heard it was winter, what with the cold weather and all, but haven't come across anything factual.

GGA - In response to this query I requested in a couple of online forums that players send in any statistics they might have regarding games played by season. Sadly there were only about four respondents and thus far too few to draw any reasonable conclusions. Having said this none of the data received indicated any seasonal bias.

Ed Rozmiarek: I saw on The Games Journal about your desire to make a Crokinole board. I had the same desire and made one about 6 months ago. Very fun project. If you haven't already, stop by my web page the contains the story of my board. The address is:

I wish I had had my digitial camera back then. I would have taken more pictures of the process.

I consider myself an above average workworker, but no expert, but let me know if you have any questions. I might be able to lend a tip or two.

Eric Martin: I've been meaning to write for months with compliments on The Games Journal site, but have nothing more specific to say than thanks for the time and effort you put into it.

One specific comment, though, is that you should change the color of the lettering in the left-hand column on the main page. White lettering on a light grayish-blue background does not make for easy reading. I have to tilt my laptop screen all the way to the table to read what each column is about. Please switch to black letters.

For reference, I use Netscape 4.61 on a Mac. I know the combination is screwy sometimes, but no way am I going to switch to either IE or PCs.

GGA - I'm printing Eric's letter as a reminder to our readers that if you have any issues with the readability or layout of The Games Journal to please write me. I try to make sure that our content is as clear and clean as possible for everyone no matter how they're viewing it. It's impossible for me to check the magazine with all possible computers/browsers so I'm reliant on readers to alert me to any errors. As for Eric's specific problem, I was unable to either recreate it or resolve it despite several efforts. Anyone else having this problem?

Brian Ciesicki: I am not a regular viewer of, but now I will be.

I stumbled upon your article about card game systems by typing in the nane of the card game I invented, called Triple Topper in Yes this is Brian Ciesicki. And I'm glad you said it was a system worth checking out (if you can ignore a few minorponts).

Have you played any of the games yet? If so which ones, and did you like them?

Finally I posted a responce to the minor flaws found on my site on the news page of my wesbsite, I'll give it to you in text format, for you to either take in for your own information, or to print as you please.

May 9 2002

Apparently, Triple Topper was part of a critical review. What I call the main part of the review, namely the fact that Triple Topper is worth investigating. However, self-hype, the poor production value, the fact that I put advertisements on cards, and crude conservative humor should let people beware. It's located at:

Read it then read my response.

All four points seem to coincide with each other. First the self hype is a necessity. If I donít believe in my product enough to invest 10 years of time inventing the deck and game variations, plus a painful amount of time constructing my website with my limited web knowledge, (thankfully, I have a Mac, else it would have taken even more time.) why would anyone else want to learn my game system if I donít think itís a significant improvement over regular cards. You donít hear any ads, except for ones of a satirical nature, reduce their products to either mediocrity or the bottomless abyss I can imagine my new slogan if it were up to "Oh no, not another con man trying to impose a new game system on the world! Now itís new and improved with more complicated rules, and less strategy." The day that gets printed on my own website about my own game is the day the Earth's core goes below 0 degrees Celsius. (thatís 32 degrees Fahrenheit for Americans) That's something I expect from

I can explain the poor production value. First of all not everyone has great drawing talent. If i did, I would scan the cards I want to be printed out. But I don't, so you'll have to "suffer" with computer generated cards. Secondly, the only true works of art in regular playing card, are face cards the jokers and the ace of spades. Court cards date back to history by either paying homage or mocking royalty, the ace of spades was originally a tax seal for those same royals, and the jokers came later so there was less tradition associated with the Jokers, so card makers were more free. The number cards are simplistic, either by tradition, or a lack of funds for lavish prints, or both. Likewise my cards are simple. They tell you the number, color and suit of the card, a few minor details about rank and which cards are used to build smaller decks, and the ads. (I'll address that later) But other than that, very simplistic, Plus I boosted my jpeg quality on my cards so the ads show up better. Third mt computer skills are limited. I used Appleworks to design and html code my entire site. I know little about Java, Flash, Shockwave, or even html. I did not know how to make the site work other than the way I did it. I just tested it on the web, it printed right, therefore I was satisfied. The last issue was, I has to scrape $40 together just to pay for the dot com name. If I had tens of thousands of free dollars, I would have made an interactive site. But I'm a decent programmer of computers, so I'm trying to work a deal to get an online version of the game made.

The third issue is about the ads. I want Triple Topper to be a success, so I can make some money off of it. I know a new game usually puts someone in financial straits, and I know the benefit-to-risk ratio of asking me to put these cards on the "brick and mortar" market weighed heavily towards risks, So I decided to use the internet to distribute Triple Topper. There was two ways I could make money, I could charge people for the right to print my cards,but I know few people will be willing to pay, especially on dot com based relative unknown. And I don't want to do it for free. That's where the ads come in. But the question becomes, why ads on the cards themselves? Two reasons, first there were famous quotes and works of art on cards before, so why not ads. Coke charges far more than basic standard cards for a Coke Ads on the backs. Besides, the free delivery system is a benefit to spread the ads. The second main reason is because quite a few web surfers ignore banner ads, so I had to put them in a place harder to ignore, and that was on the fronts themselves. Hey, it may be annoying, but don't complain, it's free. Instead of consumers paying, advertisers pay.

Finally, why the conservative humor? First of all, I would have put in liberal humor, the other half of the population would be choking me. Other games get political. The game Pope Joan refers to a female pope which is impossible according to traditional Catholic teaching, but the game rewards a Pope Joan (or Nine of Diamonds), and the Americans made the Ace the highest ranking card to topple the King, so don't say politics isn't involved in cards. Second, the game the article is probably most concerned about is "Bust the Dafuhzit" This is actually thumbing the nose at licensed character games, where they get a license first, and work game mechanics around it. I did the reverse, took a 3-variable version of Spite and Malice, and worked a theme throughout the game Plus it made people laugh. Third as you can tell by the fact that this is is a business venture first and not some scheme to thumb the nose at regular cards, or ego satisfaction, I am a fiscal conservative, (actually, I'm a libertarian, saying people are free to love as they want to love and perform art the way they want to perform art, et al, as long as no party get artificially hurt by it, Same in the fiscal arena too. On the Political spectrum scale, that intentionally skews towards moderatism I scored 9 out of`10 in fiscal freedom and 7 out of 10 in social freedom. And Republicans are closer to the Libertarian ideal than Democrats currently, and Besides, I want to be rich, yet I'm already pretty much socially free.)But I digress,and that's a part of me. You shouldn't hate a product just because it's producer is persuaded one way or the other politically. Steve Jobs is an outspoken liberal, and Bill gates is a quiet conservative, but guess which computer Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk show host, bought. The Apple, because it was a better computer. (Oh by the way, I do have Virtual PC for Mac, so Bill Gates is in my computer too, but only when I jump on the PC side.) So any liberals offended should remember, that it's the product more than the man important in business. Heck, I'll publish on my website a compassionately enabled version of Bust the Dafuhzit, where Reagan tax cuts, not congressional overspending caused the deficit. (Here I'd say if I pronounced it "dafuhzit", i'd be offending the former Senator Jim Sasser, by emphasizing his weird pronunciation, so to show no bigotry towards Sasser, I'm pronouncing that word "deficit' just like most English speakers.

In short. I wanna be rich. Currently, I'm not. I'm a conservative because I want to be upwardly mobile, and I'm proud to show it. My obvious talent is making this game system, not web design or traditional artistry. And because I'm poor, I can't hire that talent. And I know a couple fans might be poor, so I made Triple Topper accessible to them by having advertisers pay me, and not users. The only card game that my friends play that is not for gambling purposes is Triple Toper, and since most of my friends and family like at least one version of the game, I think most people exposed to my game will like it. Even when I was submitting it to game companies and game agents, most loved it,but found it not to test well o the fad-o-meter because itdidn't have some gadget, or traditional-style card game systems are not what they are looking for, etc. Just as a Christian spreads the gospel, mainly for selfless reasons, I want to spread my "gospel", except one reason is selfish (the bennies, or currently, a fraction thereof), the other is because I think this will contribute towards making society more fun.

The rules are copyrighted, and in the rules is a description of the makeup of the deck. Besides, I'm not a lawyer, but I read a notarized witness signed copy is just as good as a copyright, and I will apply for a copyright as soon as I get enough money. Because I am not a lawyer, I "poor man copyrighted" everything, then later, I'll see what will stick. As for a patent, I'm not intending to pay $5000 for something there is something similar to, but not identical.

Rob Bakker: Read your article in The Games Journal. [The Science Of Subjectivity] Just a remark. I would split "Components" into two categories: "components" and "rules". The former telling me something about the physical appearance of the gameboard and pieces (beautiful, durable etc.), the latter representing the clarity of the rules, indicating some of the effort necessary to start playing the game.

Darrell K. Hanning: Read your article on game-rating with great interest. It seemed - briefly - you were on the right track, when you stated (more or less) that any game-rating system is merely quantification of subjective opinion. (While Cheapass game components will never rank with Eurogame components, I think you know what I mean.) I saw what for me was the epitome of this kind of pseudo-intellectual nonsense with TQM (Total Quality Management) processes used by my former company (ITT), in the '80s. A series of umpty-diddle categories were concocted, in which several mid-tier computer systems were "rated". Unfortunately, most of the category ratings had much less to do with actual, quantifiable criteria, and a lot more to do with what logos could be found on the sugar plums, dancing in the IT manager's head at night. (They were very "blue" sugar plums, incidentally.)

I've written several reviews for Boulder Games' Game Notes (more than have been posted, as Jim is perpetually behind the power curve on updating his site), and have (so far) resisted most temptation to assign ratings to the boardgames I've reviewed. This is not to say, however, that I have avoided calling a rat what squeaks, scurries and smells like a rat. (Take J.U.M.P., for instance. Please.) For me, the reviewer is responsible for providing a run-down on how the game works, and how it doesn't work (and this latter can be subjective or objective, but should be identified as such). If the reviewer perceives a possible improvement, he or she should also mention this - the last thing any designer wants to read is that his effort is a piece of junk, with no illumination on how it could have been better. Most of all, though, the reviewer should be responsible for providing an identifiable point of view on the game, and not telling everyone the elephant's snout is a snake.

Matt Leacock: Wanted to thank you for your Feb 2002 article on rule writing. Was just reviewing my rules for a submission and I caught a bunch of omissions re: components/limiting factors and tie breaking.

I smell a design toolkit in here somewhere.

Jim Leesch: I have just recently found your wonderful site, so if the review [Orcz] is really old, I apologize for wasting your time, but I thought I would respond to a couple of Mr. Aleknevicus' problems with the game:

"Mechanic wise, I think the biggest problem might be the secondary rewards/penalties. I felt that these had too big an influence on the outcome of the game. To my mind it feels as though the "proper" move for the winning/losing player depends almost nothing on the individual battle in which the reward or penalty is earned. If I have to hand out three goblins to Al and/or Bob I'm probably going to do so based on the relative standings of those players rather than the contribution either made to the challenge. This won't be so much a factor at the start of the game but as things progress I think it develops into a problem. I suppose one could see this as a balancing mechanism but I don't really like it in that light. Someone giving you goblins simply because they have to give them to someone and you're in last place feels to much like charity to me. True you need to be present in the battle to qualify but it just doesn't seem to work well."

To rebut - the "contribution" phase of the victory points does not develop into a problem in later stages of the game. The point of the contribution phase is to encourage the players to involve themselves in intense competition for the challenge. It is of critical importance to put yourself into a position to be eligible for the contribution, even in battles you have no intention of winning. On the flip-side, it becomes a great advantage to eliminate one players pieces from a challenge, especially when you are not going to win the battleóyou then limit the number of contribution options in your favor. All of this leads to a game that fixes the other major problem that Mr. Aleknevicus had with the gameóthe lack of tension over winning the challenges. If the players who aren't planning on winning a battle are more interested in eliminating each other, then the likelihood of losing the overall challenge becomes greateróthus setting yourself up to be the obvious "victor" much less desirable... et cetera. The tension is actually fairly high.

I suspect that the latter "problem" resulted from a group-think situation. If just one person plays more ruthlessly, it forces much tougher decisions and higher tension.

Larry Levy: [Responding to Chris Duartes' letter last month.] Chris, I'm the fellow who came up with that massive variant of the Monopoly Card Game in the March, 2001 Games Journal. I'm a little surprised that the only problem you and your family is having with Monopoly Card Game is the fact that you can't select the initial trade card!  Nonetheless, it is a problem and one I'm a little ashamed I didn't think to address. I guess I had already suggested too many changes as it was! Your solution is a sound one. It's somewhat reminiscent of how many people play Gin Rummy, with the non-dealer getting one more card so he can make the first discard. Good job, guys. If after you play Monopoly Card Game a little more, you think it might need some other changes, you may want to check out the variant.

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