The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - March, 2004

Jonathan Oetting: Just wanted to write to let you know that I really enjoy The Games Journal website. I've been following it off and on for almost a year now, and I really think it's one of the best forums out there for discussing games and game design. I take it from your February front page statement that you may be running out of energy for the website. That's certainly understandable, I can see how one could get burned out going through the monthly routine of writing and compiling articles for the site. I just want to encourage you to keep up the good work—I really think there is still more to discuss when it comes to gaming, and the press release from Terra is a great example. I'm starting to see a trend in game design away from one-winner-take-all games and more towards cooperative games which can have multiple winners or no winners at all. Terra looks like an intriguing example of this (I'll have to check it out) and the recent Lord of the Rings games also fall into this category. I'm actually in the process of designing an educational/promotional game for the Florida Forever program (the state of Florida's land conservation program) which will also involve a mix of competition and cooperation, with success conditions that could be met by all or none of the players. I think this is a topic that would be exciting to explore in a future issue of the games journal. I personally don't feel experienced enough with a broad array of games to write an article, but I'm sure you've got contributors who could.

Caleb N. Diffell: You're right that discussions on the various game-related forums tend to be circular. If you watch on, you'll see the same topics surfacing from time to time, as new people initiate them. Perhaps one depth that has not yet been completely plumbed is discussion on strategy for specific games, however. For certain games, there's already been a lot (too much?) analysis. Puerto Rico springs most readily to mind. However, there are a lot of "B list" games out there that haven't gotten the recognition that they maybe deserve. I just picked up one such game Magna Grecia by Leo Colovini and Michael Schacht. It seems like it could be a forgotten gem; I won't know till I've played it. But this could be a new direction for The Games Journal trying to popularize some relatively obscure games that could be classics if the right people talked them up. Of course, many games are justifiably obscure because they stink, so separating the wheat from the chaff would be a difficult, if interesting and rewarding, exercise. The Games Journal already does some of this (I think my favorite article is the one by Anthony Simons on The Game of Nations).

I guess what I'm saying is that, with forums like and Boardgamegeek, a monthly e-zine format like The Games Journal really can't compete from the discussion/argument standpoint, because it's not a real-time forum like those others. So it would be better (in my opinion) to concentrate on your comparative advantage(s) over those forums: thoughtful, well-written articles that take the time to explore the intricacies of a certain design, provide a comparison and contrast of games by a certain designer, or uncover forgotten classics, just to name a few. Compared to the off-the-cuff and sometimes wildly inaccurate (or inarticulate) rantings on, such articles would be a breath of fresh air for the more thoughtful among us. In order to maximize that advantage, however, the content has to be such that the whole tenor and tone of the discussion is far above the usual noise on the forums.

I think The Games Journal has done a good job of this so far. I really enjoy the usually thought-provoking articles. (Last) month's Gipf article was especially interesting; even though I don't have much interest in the games themselves, I can appreciate the time and effort that went in to researching and writing a such an articulate and interesting article. I encourage you to recognize your comparative advantage and play to your strengths; in doing so I think The Games Journal will continue to provide a valuable service to the gaming community for a long time to come.

Michael Becker: Please don't be discouraged by the lack of replies/content because I definitely look forward to The Games Journal each month!! Some of us are just too shy to write a response/article...

I played Joust a few times recently with both my grandmother and father and I really like it. Fast, perfect theme, and simple rules. I think it is a wonderful way to kill three to five minutes. I might even create a full size board and dig out some Warhammer miniatures to finish it off. Thanks Joe.

I also wanted to thank Tom V. for his interesting article regarding the Korean gaming scene. For the past eight years I have been contemplating launching my own gaming store. But, like most people, I find myself hesitant to take that risk. Retail game stores seem to come and go like the changing winds and the low prices found on the net must make survival more difficult every day.

A games café seems a great venue to introduce the masses to the "new Euro/Designer game revolution". I was curious if anyone in North America has actually tried this idea?

Over the past ten years, I have run a board game club in two different Canadian cities and although they have both been successful, it is generally difficult to attract female gamers. For the most part women only participate when attending with their spouse/boyfriend. I am not saying that women don't game—I am just stating the numbers whom attend my club without a spouse seem to be few and far between. On the other hand, the Korean gaming scene seems to have a plethora of female participants. I wonder if the same is true in Germany?

In my opinion, to successfully operate a games café I think the key component would be to get ladies excited about board gaming. Otherwise, based on my experiences, you might be missing half the population. Not to mention, it would make my search for a new mate so much easier...

Any thoughts/comments would be appreciated.

GGA - Thanks to everyone who wrote in with words of encouragement in regards last month's editorial. I suppose I should try to clarify my position a little.

First off, my editorial was meant more as an apology to you, the reader, for having such a slim issue rather than discouragement on my part. (Admittedly, I'd be happier if my inbox was overflowing with submissions but rest assured that I am quite happy editing The Games Journal.) I think that it's a bad idea to delay publication until you have enough material to warrant a new issue—more often than not this leads to a sporadic schedule and a slow death. Having a self-imposed schedule does wonders for keeping a publication alive. The downside is that sometimes you end up publishing a very thin issue as was the case February.

Secondly, my editorial was also about my own contributions to The Games Journal. By this I mean the articles that I actually write rather than my duties as editor. I find that, more and more, I have nothing new to say but this is not to suggest that others don't. The problem with this is that it's increasingly difficult for me to write something up if there are too few submissions one month. When this happens I feel that it's my job to make up the shortfall but sometimes I just don't have an article in me.

Finally, there's also the practical situation of what I should write about in the editorial each month. To be perfectly honest I find this task to be the hardest thing about putting together each issue and I wish I hadn't started the practice. Usually, it's the last thing I do and more often than not I sit there staring at the screen wondering what I should write about. The low level of content in February was foremost in my mind at that point and I let the situation get the better of me.

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