The Games Journal | A Magazine About Boardgames

Letters - September, 2002

Mikko Saari: What comes to the Show Me the Money! article, I think there's something missing. I have few suggestions:

First of all - if you have even a small collection of German games, you'll inevitably have loads of wooden cubes in various colours. Those work quite well as all sorts of counters and tokens. Pay notice to the size of the cubes in various games. El Grande seems to have standard-sized cubes, at least many other games have cubes of the same size. Tigris & Euphrates, in the other hand, has cubes that are both larger and smaller than those. So, combining them gives you three different sizes, which is handy.

Another system comes from Asia. While American Mahjong players seem to use chips, in Asia scoring sticks seem to be more popular. My set had small plastic scoring sticks, which were quite poor and had useless mix of denominations. Not a problem—I bought a pack of ice cream sticks from a craft store and made my own.

One thing I don't like about Vom Kap bis Kairo is the requirement to have paper to count your money. For that, I found an useful solution: most mobile phones have calculators and at least in Finland, everyone has one. It's useful solution for keeping other scores, too.

Also, I couldn't agree more about the glass blobs - do not buy them at game shops. I bought mine from a pet shop - hundred or so glass blobs for, what, few euros. Ok, so I only had two colours to choose from, blue or green, but still...

Todd Klemme: In response to Ray Smith's article on money in games, there are two games out there with excellent poker chips: Sharp Shooters and Last Chance by Milton Bradley. Both are out of print but easily found on eBay.

Coins from Sharpshooters / Last Chance

They both have full-sized, excellent quality poker chips (plastic, but closer to clay in feel than regular plastic chips) in a variety of denominations ranging from $10 to $10,000. Mine are all mixed together so I can't say which denominations came from which games but with a set from each you can use them for a wide variety of other games.

Last Chance and Sharp Shooters aren't worth shelf space in a lot of people's collections, but you can always keep the chips and the dice and throw the rest of the games away.

Thomas Powell: I enjoyed your piece in The Games Journal entitled, Show Me the Money! Just thought I'd mention another variant on the small poker chip theme is the so-called mah jongg chip. These are small chips with a square hole in the middle (inspired by Chinese coins, I'd imagine). They have several good points: you can stack them, you can make nice racks for them out of dowel rods, they don't take up much room, and they're cheap (100 in five colors for $5—includes shipping—from www.mahjonggmaven.com). They have some nifty Asian dice also.

Mike Schoessow: I wanted to let you know that the 3rd piecepack game design competition has begun. Hopefully you can list this as a news item in the next issue. Competition rule details can be found at http://www.groups.yahoo.com/group/piecepack/message/505. After
discussions with Ron Hale-Evans I decided to take a suggestion of his and make the judging blind on this one. The new theme is Changing Landscapes.

Don Hessong: Have you guys ever considered adding a news section to your wonderful webpage? Seems to me your approach/format would be good for this type of thing as you would hit the pertinent highlights and no more. I have yet to find a satisfactory news page about Euro's on the web. ConsimWorld on the wargaming side is an excellent model for the way they handle news—just a headline and a brief description of the news highlights.

Unfortunately I am not volunteering to help, just suggesting a way to add more to your workload ;-) Meaning I can understand why you would not want to take it on.

GGA - I've thought about this but to be honest, I don't think The Games Journal is well suited for the task. I've pretty strongly committed to a single update at the start of each month which is a glacial pace for many websites. There are many other sites that can get information out much quicker than we can which is of prime importance when dealing with "news".

Larry Levy: As for your cover piece, I agree with you. I adore Puerto Rico and have played it more than any other new game I can think of, but it in no way diminishes my affection for Princes or makes it less likely that I'll play it (other than the fact that there's less gaming time due to the amount I spend on Puerto Rico). I suppose it's conceivable that you could have two very similar games, one of which is clearly superior to the other; in this case the better game might stop you from playing the lesser one. But most games occupy niches: level of complexity, luck vs. skill, duration, etc. I honestly can't think of a game that I've stopped playing because of a new arrival. I certainly intend to play Princes of Florence just as much as before Puerto Rico came into my life.

Anthony Simons' article on upgrading games was interesting, but I wonder how applicable it is today. Ten or twenty years ago, there were few decent games and (for many of us) lots of time to play them. Coming up with major game variants was practically a cottage industry. But now, there are so many great games that we know work, who has the time or the incentive to mess with the older ones that don't? The most important part of the game design process is the playtesting—it's also the most lengthy and the least enjoyable. So yeah, the ideas that Simons proposes for taking the luck out of Risk combat are worthwhile. I can play with these concepts over a series of games, slowly refining them, or I can just play Vinci, which accomplishes much the same thing in a design I know already works. If playing at game design is your goal, I think the things that Simons suggests are good guidelines. But if you're just looking for a better game, it'll probably be a lot easier to check out your local game store than the bottom of your game pile.

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