We all have a soft spot for the latest and greatest board game that’s coming out next. After all, it’ll be better and more wonderful than the game that came before it, or so we’re told. We are entranced by the playthroughs, we gawp at the beautiful components and we imagine how much fun we’ll have playing this amazing new game. Yet, sometimes these new games aren’t actually that new and we’re too blind to see it. So in this article, I want to explore what this means for us, as the board game buying public. (This topic was inspired by the always wonderful Bez.)
As a board game reviewer, you need to have access to board games. That’s obvious. Some reviewers rely solely on games they bought themselves, maybe got as presents or borrowed from friends, while others will only review games sent to them by the publisher or even the designer. Many reviewers will rely on a mix of both. What I want to look at in this article is how review copies, which are (usually) free, may influence a review and what the relationship between publishers, or designers, and reviewers may look like and how it can also play a part in how a review is written.
The longer we enjoy our hobby and the more games we play, the more our taste in games is likely to change. As a reviewer, I can only write about a game as I feel about it at the time, but even if my taste in games changes, the review will remain on the blog. So the question is whether a review should stay frozen in time or if it should be revisited with a fresh perspective. Let me try and answer those questions in this article.
Complexity is a fairly vague term. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the state of having many parts and being difficult to understand or find an answer to.” Yet, it’s not clear when parts are considered “many” or at what point something is difficult to understand. Here are my thoughts on complexity in board games and what I think it all means.
Tabletop game designers want to create an enjoyable experience for people – whatever enjoyable means in this context. From that starting point, they create a game that is balanced, flows well and meets the desired complexity requirements, as well as meets other criteria. They may use the skillset of developers to refine everything, and if a publisher is involved, there will be additional criteria that have to be met. However, in this article, I want to focus on enjoyment, what it means and whose responsibility it is to make a game enjoyable.
Let’s start 2020 with a serious topic and wade straight in. I might as well start the year as I mean to go on. So, turn order. It’s something that matters very little in some games, and a lot in others. In some games, players take their turns in clockwise order, in others it’s based on the faction they’ve chosen or some other similar measure, or you might bid for turn order. In some games, turn order remains the same throughout the game, in others it changes from round to round. I want to look at the different ways turn order is implemented in games and the effect this can have.
Apparently, modern tabletop games have had a huge surge worldwide recently. Mind you, “recently” really means a few years, and it doesn’t seem to let up. It’s great to see so many people pick up cardboard and have a great time, whether it’s alone or with friends, family or complete strangers. So I want to look at what has been happening and see where and how tabletop games have appeared in people’s lives.
Classifying things we encounter is important. It gives us a way to describe them to others, allows us to decide whether things are similar or different and provides a method to create connections between them. Classifications help us with decision making and prediction. However, classifications alone don’t fully describe things and especially when we talk about classifying tabletop games, there are a lot more nuances and details that cannot be described by classifications alone. So I want to explore how far classifications can go until their usefulness deteriorates.
Economic simulation games set in 19th century Scotland are few and far between, but Clans of Caledonia by Karma Games is one of those rare games. Your role is to expand your influence in the Highlands, cut wood or mine ore for income, plant the land with wheat, as well as herd cows and sheep. You build factories that turn your milk and grain harvest into delicious cheese, bread and, of course, whiskey, all of which you will export and trade for imported sugar cane, cotton and tabacco. It is very much what you would expect from any other economic simulation game of the same ilk, yet Clans of Caledonia is exceptional because the theme and mechanisms fit like glove and hand, making for a really smooth gameplay
Inspired by a recent #ThrowbackThursday tweet from Board Game Inquistion I thought it would be nice to write about one of my own game related memories from my childhood. Like probably most kids of my generation, I grew up with all the usual classic tabletop games, or boardgames as they were known then: Monopoly (of course), Game of Life (a friend had that one), Chess (I always lost, until one day), Checkers (when there was really nothing else), Ludo (the dice chucker), Stratego (chess on steroids) and probably a few more.