The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - June, 2004

Rob Bakker: Thanks for publishing another issue of your fine Journal.

Thought I would mention this link to the Mafia variant of the Werewolf game: http://www.princeton.edu/~mafia/

Joe Huber: In Will's article, he makes a couple of odd omissions in the "And What's with the Range, Anyway?" section. First, most games have a length element that is linearly related to the number of players. Take It Easy has a fixed length because it involves purely simultaneous play. Balloon Cup has a fixed length because it involves a fixed number of players. Entdecker, on the other hand, has some fixed elements (there's only one game board to fill, after all), but some variance based on the number of players. The length of La Citta is almost entirely proportional to the number of players; most of the length of the game is the political actions, and the number of said actions is directly proportional to the number of players. For some games the length is even geometrically related to the number of players; if the game system involves interactions between all players, the number of interactions will increase greater than linearly as the number of players increases.

The second key element is the players themselves. In reality, most game boxes assume players of average speed, and don't worry about any resulting error. But it's even more significant, in some cases, than variances based upon the number of players—a full game of Funkenschlag can be finished in 2 hours, but in some groups it takes 5-6. We play Spacebeans with 3 players in 10 minutes; the box says 45 and with some groups I wouldn't be surprised if it took longer still.

It's an interesting article in any event—thanks to Will for writing it and you for publishing it.

Philip Thomas: Dave Shapiro's excellent article on games we love to play but consistently lose reminds me of my experience with one of my favorite games, Junta. For those that don't know it, this game is themed around the "politics" of a banana republic, with the players as mafia families running the government: the object is to be the family with the most money in your Swiss bank account before the foreign aid runs out. The basic skill of the game lie in negotiating with other players: a little like Diplomacy though the action is more fast-paced and there is a greater element of chance. Anyway, I almost always lose this game when I play it, and lose pretty badly—having 1-5 million in my account as opposed to the 15-30 of the winning player and his close rivals. Even more ironically, I have identified the strategic flaw in my play—I am too concerned with achieving political "power" as an end in itself, rather than as an end to getting rich. However, although I know this, every time I play the game the same thing happens—I am seduced by the lure of power... I wonder if anyone else has a similar story?

Darin McGrew: A gimmick rallye is like an extremely large board game—public streets are the board, and your car is your playing piece. A gimmick rallye is not a race—the goal is not to finish first. Rather, the goal is to score points by moving your "playing piece" correctly.

A gimmick rallye should make you think, not get you lost. You should make it to the finish with no problems if you just do each Route Instruction in the most obvious manner, ignoring any gimmicks. But you score points by finding gimmicks hidden in the information given to you.

I've noticed that some people who enter gimmick car rallyes seem to hit a barrier similar to the one Dave Shapiro describes. They reach a certain level, and can't seem to improve beyond that. They usually understand perfectly the advanced gimmicks that they miss, and recognize them immediately when they read the critique (answer sheet) at the finish.

They can write or precheck rallyes that include the same advanced gimmicks that they miss. But as rallyists, they never seem to catch the gimmicks while they're actually running a rallye.

Jim Deacove: Josh Adelson expressed his problems with the rules for the tickets in Ticket to Ride. I have to say that when the mild and more likeable members of our gaming group play, we stick to the rules provided. Makes for a very pleasant game with just enough interaction to keep everyone awake.

But, when the alpha members of the group show up, to hone the edge of the game we move in the direction that Josh suggests but go farther. We want those Tickets in circulation more. So, we use almost the same rules for Tickets as the ones for Trains. Each player gets 3 Tickets to start with as usual. Then 5 are put face up to select from, just as for the Trains. During play, one of your options is to select Tickets and the same rules apply as when choosing Trains. Pick two, one from the face ups, replacing it, and selecting a second from face ups or top of supply.

So, the question became: How do you ever get rid of an unwanted Ticket? Choose carefully, because you are simply stuck with them? No fun. Have a fourth option on a turn—that of discarding up to a limit of 3 Tickets? (An interesting option that leads to some frantic end games, but goes against the essential spirit of the game too much).

Or mimicking the Locomotive feature of drawing Trains—which is what we do. Instead of picking that second Ticket, you can choose to discard one from your hand. If plans go awry for whatever reason, you can sacrifice Route taking for points for discarding hopeless Tickets.

B. Waite: Have you considered setting up an RSS news feed for the site? RSS is a great technology that allows a website to publish its content in a generic format that can be read by a number of news reader application (like NetNewsWire) Your readers would be notified whenever new content is added, and allow them to read the content offline—among many other benefits.

GGA - I have considered an RSS feed in the past. In fact, I actually posted a "request for opinions" on a discussion forum to gauge people's interest. The overwhelming response was that an RSS feed would not be much use. This wasn't because people don't find such feeds useful (they do) but rather that it's not a good fit for The Games Journal. Our content is updated on a very regular schedule, generally the first day of each month and there have been very few exceptions to this. As such people already know when to expect new content to appear on our site (RSS feeds are much more useful for sites that feature irregular updates that occur every few days or hours).

Still, this does not mean that I'm opposed to the idea and such feeds have become much more popular than they were even 3 months ago. The one downside is that it does require me to actually create the XML files necessary. While this is mostly trivial it does involve extra time each month and that's the key. Editing the website is already something of a time-sink and so I'm reluctant to add to the workload if very few people are likely to use such a feature. So, consider this an official "request for interest"—let me know if you would find an RSS feed useful, if we get enough respondents then I'll certainly see what I can do.

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