The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - November, 2002

Gilad Yarnitzky: After reading the interesting article on game rules [GGA - Groundrules For Gaming] I felt that one topic was missing. I think it can be summarized as "Game management". I'll give two example of house rules that we have.

One is regarding game rules. Sometimes (especially when playing a relatively new game) someone is not sure of how a rule goes. Even if all other players think it is one way and he/she still thinks it is another way then the rule book is opened and the rules is checked. Takes a few second longer but keeps every one happy.

The second one is about forgiveness. Sometime when we play at home with the kids around or other things that can disturb your attention, a player can forget to take some action he intended. If the player notices that, before the player after him did any major action that could have being effected by the forgotten action, then the player simply states what action he forgot to make and if all players agree that is reasonable then the player is allowed to take the action. This off course reduces the tension in the game. Of course sometime we want a more intense game we disallow this and all the players are told at the beginning of the game that no after turn action will be allowed.

These two rules make the atmosphere more relaxed and friendly.

Randy Cox: In the Oct. 2002 Letters, Michael Evans asked how to get rid of odors in his games. I had a thrift store find that smelled pretty strongly of smoke, so I tossed some silica packets into the box. Those are the little packets that you get in new shoes and whatnot that say "Do Not Eat" on them. I had a bunch of them (and I think it would take a bunch to make much of a difference), so I put them in the game box and put the game away. It was several months later when I got the game out again, and the silica had almost completely absorbed the odor.

If Michael doesn't happen to have a handful of silica packets and he doesn't want to hold up his local shoe store to get them, I imagine that there is a commercially available odor-absorbing product at uses silica--Odor Eaters, perhaps?

Yirmeyahu Avery: I did want to comment on the excellent article on children's games in your October issue [GGA - Games & Kids]. If at all possible, I would like to see an even more extensive article on children's games. It seems that there is a serious lack of good games for children, and, not having played many "German" children's games, I would like to know what the better ones are. I am thinking of games that a 7 year old could play that would be at least somewhat interesting to grown-ups too. Carcassonne, and Cartagena were good picks I agree with. I would like to know more about the Haba games, Enchanted Forest and the other Ravensburger games, and any other gems I don't know about from some of the smaller companies too. Anyone up to the task?

Jim Cobb: In the beginning of your review of Bang!, you write "The 'spaghetti westerns' that Sergio Leone directed remain the defining films of the western genre so it seems all too appropriate that an Italian company release this western themed card game".

Excuse me? His spaghetti westerns are the defining films of the western genre? I beg to differ. Did Mr. Leone make High Noon, Winchester '73, or any of John Wayne's movies, for example? No. I'd say he directed the defining films of the "spaghetti western" sub-genre.

Certainly A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly are fine films, but they're hardly the highwater mark of the entire western genre.

Jim Clapperton: I always look forward to the first of the month, thanks to your great mag. The reviews are quite helpful, and I find I must now add Bang! to my "buy" list. We're always looking for this type of game for our lunch time break. Thanks for pointing out that the cards also had English text, which is one of the things that worried me. Once again, great job!

Todd Sanders: I really have enjoyed the recent articles on correcting/adding to pieces in games [GGA - Upgrading Your Game, Upgrading Your Game Even Further]. I make my own ancient abstract games using exotic hardwoods (working my way through Bell's boardgame book, building the boards) and replace many components to games I feel are lacking. Good to know there are others out there and what techniques they use.

Also enjoyed the Ghosts! review this month. My local games dealer has been selling off a huge collection of mostly terrible games from the 70's and 80's but there have been a few real gems (namely - Downfall in which a series of numbered chips are rotated trough a series of gears, but rotating the gears on your side can cause the opponents pieces to be rotated on their side).

Richard Huzzey: Thanks for another lovely issue of The Games Journal. I think I'm right in saying (aren't I?) that contributions of both letters and articles are on the increase, as you have long hoped. Anyway, thanks for publishing my thoughts on the Germanism of German Gaming, and I look forward very much to seeing what "answers" your readers have. I half wonder if I should have submitted it as a letter rather than an article, as I was essentially asking a question rather than writing anything interesting.

Essen falls rather inconveniently in the midst of the college term, so I will have to reserve that pleasure for a few years time. (Although I too can live without the smoke!) I'm intrigued as to whether, 12 months on, you are pleased you bought Ave Caesar? While expensive and not wholly strategic (!), it is one of the games I find fun most consistently. I will certainly pick one if the price drop you predict happens!

GGA - There are very few (if any) game purchases that I've truly regretted. The cost of a game seems very irrelevant soon after the money is spent whereas the pleasure of having the game available for play lingers on.

Scott Slomiany: Having been in the game-design field for over 10 years now (alas, coin-op and casino), I've had a few run-arounds with the German question. Here's some of my observations, from an American point of view.

The question "Why do British and American games companies churn out bland packages intended to be bought as Christmas presents and played once or twice?" is fairly easily answered. At least in America, there are only two traditional game manufacturers left, Mattel and Hasbro. And they need to keep their stock price happy. I had the opportunity to work on a Monopoly-themed game, and the Monopoly license department person was somewhat proud of the fact that "60% of Monopoly-ized games are given as presents, and aren't even opened. They just sit on a shelf." These companies have no interest whatsoever in making a game, just commodities that can be sold to boost the bottom line. To add to this, probably 98% of the board game shelf space in the U.S. is in chain stores such as Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, etc. who are only interested in moving great quantities of product. These kinds of product are hardly the low-selling units of word-of-mouth games. Again, these are the games with name recognition. I was actually fairly amazed when I saw the Lord Of The Rings game available at Target last winter. Needless to say, they did not re-stock it; instead, their game section now replies heavily on various Monopoly editions, Scrabble editions, etc.

The other aspect of this, is that at least in America, there is very little free time for board game use, especially with all other sorts of entertainment available. Unlike Europeans, the standard amount of vacation time allotted to a random employee is seldom over 2 weeks. And our work hours keep getting stretched longer. And the kids would rather play videogames. Another part of this is that grown ups here are generally turned off by board games, primarily from experiences of playing Monopoly and Risk as a kid. They are fairly amazed when I show them a game, such as Acquire or Carcassonne, that a game can actually be played without dice, and in the typical Import Game (the term I use) fashion, you can lose the game, but still feel like you've built something, and advanced your own little world. Unlike Monopoly or Risk, where the goal is, to some extent, humiliate every other player, making them sit out while the rest keep playing, these Import Games have a softer feel to them, while yet they can still be ruthless. Only one player typically leaves Monopoly or Risk happy, the others wind up with some resentment, especially with Risk, where the feelings of being teamed-up on can be brutal. Sure, there can be teaming-up in Settlers, but a player is never truly erased from the game.

As far as Germany is considered, I've always found the people there to be very family-centric. And, at least from an American standpoint, the engineering to be great. Even in something like KinderEggs, which are banned in the U.S. we've found them to be quite the amazing example of engineering ("Just how did this 7 inch high working toy fit into that 1.5 inch high tube?"). These facets seem to me to be apparent in every German game I own. I assume there are bad German games, also. But the amount of high quality games that seem show up from that area of the world is quite astounding. Hopefully, we will start to see these influences in other games from around the world.

Richard Huzzey: Thanks for your thoughts; although I shouldn't be surprised I'm really depressed at the statistic that 60% of Monopoly clones go unplayed. As regards a more family-centric way of life on the continent, I think that may indeed be responsible for the Germans' games supremacy. It is, after all, the family, not hobby, market that makes games such a big business in Germany I guess.

Larry Levy: With regard to Richard Huzzey's question of "where did the Games Mecca of German gaming come from?", the answer is "careful planning". Evidently, in the early seventies, the German games industry was dominated by children's games. A gentleman named Walter Luc Haas, who died last year, was responsible for importing many American strategy games, including quite a few Sackson titles. This gave the German adult gaming public many more options, but the gaming industry wanted more home grown titles. To accomplish this, they invested a good deal of money in a number of projects, the most notable of which was the formation of the Spiel des Jahres to honor the best games of the year. The idea to form the society stemmed from meetings during a 1977 toy fair; the Spiel des Jahres itself was founded in 1978 and the first Game of the Year award was presented the following year. A great deal of time, effort, and money have been expended to give this award the tremendous recognition and prestige it currently holds with the German public. I have no idea if such a plan could work in the States or the UK, but evidently such Gaming Meccas don't come about by accident.

Fernando Moros: I read your article about split corners in old games [GGA - How To Repair Split Boxes]. It is very good and nicely illustrated.

Can you please, tell me, why gamers and collectors hate so much sellotape? I have just started buying games from Ebay, and reading some websites and it seems that sellotape is a big NO, NO .... I wonder why is so bad...if you have time to comment to me.

GGA - Cellophane tape has a couple of properties that make it a poor choice for box repair. The first is that it tends to yellow and age poorly so what at first might appear to be a fairly decent repair grows very ugly over time. The second reason is that the adhesive often breaks down over time, the plastic will peel away leaving the rough, dried adhesive behind.

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