The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - May, 2002

Wayne Applewhite: I would like to offer my help and am not sure who to start with or where to go, so I decided to start with you. I have lived in Europe for the past 3 years. Upon arrival, I was introduced to "German" family/strategy games, "European" games or whichever term you would like to couch the subject as. However, that is not where my gaming passion started. While growing up, I was initially feed such games as, Tactics 2, Midway, Dog Fight, Twixt (still have my original version of this game by AH), Feudal, to name a few. Then I progressed to such titles as: Squad Leader, Panzer Leader, Ploy, War in the Pacific, Jutland, Bismarck, Luftwaffe, Third Reich, Sleuth, Venture, Acquire, again, just to name a few.

Now I play what will most certainly become classics a few years from now: El Grande, Modern Art, San Marcos, Elfenland, Taj Mahal, Tikal, La Citta, 6 Nimmt, M, Medina, Capitol, Big Boss, Big City, Union Pacific, Quo Vatis, Carlos Magnvs, again, just to name a few.

I will not try to describe who I am, because anyone can say anything about themselves and it will be left up to the person on the end of the e-mail or fax machine to decide the extent of the honesty intended.

Let me just say I live in Brussels, Belgium now (because my wife has a job here) and I have a lot of time (well, not that much) on my hands and would like to get more involved in my passion/hobby, "gaming!"

Currently I teach (part time) for Boston University Brussels (you can go to the BUB web site and find information on me there: http://www.bostonu.be ). When you get there, just click on Faculty and my name will be the first name you see (only because my last name starts with an "A").

Having said all of that, I would like to know how one can become a game tester, or write reviews for new games that have not gone public yet, or help in the design of new games, from this corner of the world?

GGA - To be honest Wayne, I have no idea how to go about becoming a playtester, particularly in Belgium. We do have several other Belgians reading every month so perhaps they might be of assistance? Wayne can be reached at gedo.applewhite@pandora.be

Richard Huzzey: I was particularly interested to read the "catching new gamers" articles, given that I tried to introduce my Mother to Lost Cities yesterday (it being Easter Sunday and all).

Her first complaint was that "those games you play are all so complicated." I'm sure if we'd have played Rummy with a pack of playing cards, that wouldn't have been an issue, but the special cards for Lost Cities gave her the impression it would be very complicated. I think the presence of a theme (Lots Cities has a theme?) also made her cautious (perhaps suspecting it was a detailed simulation of exploration).

So, I found that the unfamiliar "game system" (as your columnist a few weeks back termed it) and the theme made her more nervous than a regular card game or a boardgame she knew.

I guess familiarity is the reason that mediocre games like Monopoly still rule the US and UK games marketsówe aren't as adventurous as our German and French cousins.

The happy ending is that she actually got to like the game (winning 3 out of 3 hands) and I was the one who had to call it a day in the end, so I could go and watch Star Trek V which was on TV! I think I have her hooked to Lost Cities now but, as the writer this month mentioned- variety will not be welcome!

One issue I wished to take up about Joe's article on getting newbie's "hooked." I realise it was a very tongue in cheek piece, but suspect the allusion to cannabis leading to heroin may be an unintentional joke. From what I understand, it is, to a great extent, the drugs dealers, not the stuff itself, which leads to harder drugs (and hence games gurus, not Lost Cities itself that leads to Britannia or History of the World). Hence, legalising cannabis would lower the pick-up rate for heroin, perhaps. Sorry to inject liberal political pedantics into a discussion on games, though!

Jeff Ganong: In response to your comments about conversion [GGA - April, 2002], my article was intended for players who had volunteered to play a game. I'm interested in making their initial experience as pleasant as possible.

Most German-style games have strong themes. It is only natural that these themes will overlap with other hobbies and therefore attract non-gamers. I'm thinking of Dune, Lord of the Rings, Union Pacific, Finale, En Garde, etc. In such a case I'm not trying to convince someone that my hobby is superior, they are complementary.

GGA - For the record, I was not specifically referring to your article when I wrote my introductory comments in April's issue (at least not when I was speaking of gaming "evangelism"). Rather, the similar theme of Joe Golaszewski's and your articles got me thinking about the subject and my personal views on "spreading the word".

Steve Haffner: I just wanted to comment on how much I thoroughly enjoyed the article, "How to Turn Family and Friends into Gamers Using Subterfuge, Mind Control and Violence". I laughed out loud at Joe's suggestions for luring the unsuspecting non-gamers into the fold.

I often marvel at how "normal" people can sit around doing such mundane things as watching television, talking to each other, or having sex when they could be playing games. How can my wife not want to get in a quick game of Carcassonne before going to bed? What's up with that?

Kevin P. Greaves: Both Jeff Ganong and Joe Golaszewki have valid points in their articles on converting non gamers. I would have to say though -- "that I am appalled by the assumption that if you don't already play [German] games you are adverse to the very idea." I have found that given the time and the option most people will while away the hours with friends playing games.

I also wouldn't dismiss games like Sorry as quickly as Joe did. I find Sorry to be enjoyable and have found the variant rules useful in converting people to "serious" gaming. Also Joe's last suggestion for getting one's friends to consider gaming (smashing the TV) could be counter productive in my house where the TV is used for several (non video) games; Nightmare and Channel Surfing to name two.

Anyway, both articles were very good and enjoyable. Keep up the good work.

Jon Power: I've never understood why board games are packaged in boxes with separate lids and bases. The German design of the deeper, squarer box (because they use a quarterboard) is much better than the old long, flat boxes we grew up with. But why use this design anyway? Look around your house at what stuff comes in; cornflakes, power tools, cameras, radios, big stuff, little stuff, it's all put into CARTONS! OK, there's loads of stuff in plastic molded cases, but most stuff in boxes is actually in cartons, a single box with a folding flap which tucks in at the top.

Why not package games like this, put the quarterboard in vertically and diagonally, drop the other stuff in bags either side. It would sit better on the store shelf, and wouldn't hurt the contents really. I actually have one game in a carton (so it can be done) and a few in tubes and a carton must be cheaper to manufacture than 2 halves of a box that have to fit and then be shrinkwrapped to seal it.

I liked the idea of introducing people to games via card games. Good idea, I'll be sure to carry something always.

GGA - I believe that SPI did, in fact, release some of their larger games using the packaging you describe. (Perhaps someone more knowledgeable could confirm/deny this?) While I can believe that it would be cheaper I also think that it's a poorer choice and one I hope doesn't become popular. Most of your examples are items that are of temporary use - you throw most of them out once you've purchased the item or eaten all the cornflakes. Durability is not an issue so who cares if the box tends to wear out with repeated use? Games have a much longer shelf life so to speak and I think are served well by having better quality boxes. Personally I'm much happier purchasing an Amigo card game that comes in a nice two part box than one from Abacus that doesn't. I think a more apt comparison would be to books. Certainly a softcover book contains the the same information but I much prefer having a hardcover on my shelves.

M. Chris Duarte: I recently bought the Monopoly Card Game for my Sister for her Birthday. She's a big Monopoly fan. We started to play it for the first time tonight and from the start we encountered a problem. I then decided to look on the internet to see if the game had been discussed to review/modify the rules. I read the variant on your site and nowhere did I see (or I missed it) our problem discussed. I'd like to know what you think:

After my sister dealt 10 cards to everyone and then dealt the first face up cards that represented everyone's first Trade card, she asked me if she could get her own Trade card. Apparently, she had Park Place in her hand and Boardwalk was the card in her trade pile. I looked over the rules and then said "No". Needless to say, she was immediately infuriated. She argued that the game was stupid since she had no decision in what her first trade card should be; it was just dealt out and there was no way for her to trade for it. After some thought, I suggested that perhaps the initial setup should be changed as follows:-

The dealer should deal 11 cards to everyone. Then each person should decide on the first Card to go into their Trade pile and place it face down in front of them. After everyone has done so, then the first Trade cards are turned Face Up. For the 3 or 2 player versions, the first trade card of the Dummies are dealt face down and after the players have put their own face down, then all are turned face up.

I think that this would solve our problem and save us some grief. Perhaps others may like this change to the rules as well. What do you think?

GGA - Well, my first thought is that perhaps it would be easier to get a new sister? Seriously though, I think your idea is a good one and helps prevent exactly the problem you describe. I'll recommend this the next time we play the game.

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