The Thoughts of Chairman Tone.

Things that spill out of my head.

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Cult of the Old?

Anthony Simons
United Kingdom
Royal Wootton Bassett
Wiltshire
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Sometimes I despair; I look at all those lovely games I have bought in the past, and wonder why. It's especially true of the games that just don't get played at all.

The trouble is, games are meant to be enjoyed. If I went along to my regular group and said, "Tonight, we're playing this one. It's been sat on my shelf for so long, gathering dust, and we just have to get it played. Let's get the shrink off and start punching the bits out," then the group would happily oblige. However, if I do this too much, I get the sense that they would get rather annoyed; too many unknowns and you're bound to pull some real crap out sooner or later.

A case in point was Origins: How We Became Human. I met the designer and publisher, Phil Eklund, at Essen in 2007; he is an impressive game designer, utilising the medium as a means to impart his knowledge of prehistory (amongst other fields) upon us lower academic echelons. His prior publication, American Megafauna, was a rather "old-school" simulation of natural selection amongst prehistoric animals.

With Origins, he did a grand job of meeting in the middle, between his simulative ideal of representing the rise of the human race from a number of ancestral species, and the modern Euroesque mechanisms which would appeal to the current boardgame hobbyist market. The problem with such a project is that the designer has to tip the balance one way or the other - it is not possible to provide a detailed simulation and abstract it to the point of playability.

When we finally tore the shrink of the card deck, the game lasted about an hour before abandonment due to player distaste. The game was - well - completely underdeveloped. It made a fine educational tool, but it just wasn't what our group expected or needed; to become that would require some serious development (either the game or the players - take your pick). Besides, Settlers of the Stone Age gave a more accessible, more playable game on the same theme. I traded it away, together with the unused expansion.

At least Origins got played. You see, half the problem is me. I buy the game, then when it comes to some table-time, I procrastinate - again and again. Episodes like the Origins one are not encouraging, so more and more I find myself sticking to what I know; so I end up looking at that unused purchase - or even something I just haven't played in a while - and saying to myself, "Why would I want to play X when Y does that so much better?"

A good thing for me? Probably; it means I will get more from the games I already have, rather than feeling the need to buy something new.

A good thing for the industry? Well, one gamer hardly makes a difference; but I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling like this. In the short term, it's bad for the industry; in the long term it's good. Fussy and particular consumers will drive the design quality up, and we'll end up with better designs to choose from. It's already happening, and I think we're a long way from the saturation level.
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Thu Apr 7, 2011 7:03 am
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EXCLUSIVE!* - Shock Boardgame Anachronism on BBC Four!

Anthony Simons
United Kingdom
Royal Wootton Bassett
Wiltshire
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So there I was, watching the BBC Four production of Hattie, a biopic of Hattie Jacques during her marriage to John Le Mesurier, when up comes a scene with a boardgame close-up. The camera then tilted up to the family, where Hattie and John were about to announce to their two young boys that they were about to be divorced.

The game was Exploration, a fairly famous game which was eventually published by Waddingtons in 1970; the earlier version was first published in 1967 (apparently by the designer). I suspect the copy they had was a Waddingtons version; in any case, I surmised it could not have been there because:-

HATTIE AND JOHN WERE DIVORCED IN 1965!!!

It was a very unusual relationship they had, Hattie taking a live-in lover while they were still married and everything being so hush-hush. But to my knowledge, neither of them were time-travellers!

WHAT A CARRY-ON!!!

*Exclusive for those who never spotted it the first time this drama was shown, a couple of months back!
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Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:55 pm
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Triskaidekaphobia?

Anthony Simons
United Kingdom
Royal Wootton Bassett
Wiltshire
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I was climbing the stairs at home the other night, when the thought suddenly occurred to me that it took thirteen steps to reach the landing from the hall. I remembered that this was the same number of steps it took in the last three houses I lived in, and also the house I lived in as a young child.

The house I lived in from my teenage years up until leaving home was built much earlier than the others, 1890 or so. I cannot actually remember how many steps it took to get to the first landing, but the rooms were high and built in a rather staggered fashion. There were only about half a dozen steps to each landing after that first one; I think it might have been thirteen for the first.

Anyway, in that moment the theory I have had for years suddenly resurfaced; that modern houses in the UK (well, England at least) tend to have thirteen steps from hall to landing (if you live in the UK - or perhaps even if you don't - go on, count the steps and see if I'm wrong. At worst I reckon I'm one step out). I then tried to think of the reason why.

If one considers the long-established superstitions associated with the number thirteen (even in building, so I hear), then why thirteen steps? I could only reason that a combination of the economics involved in building houses en masses and the ideal height for a step for human use produced thirteen stairs.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the use of the number thirteen in games. Mrs S finds it very annoying that just about every thought with me comes back to games - especially at bedtime (behave yourselves!) - and shook her head in disbelief when I said "not many games use that number, do you think that game designers are superstitious?"

End of discussion there; not something she wanted to talk about. But thinking about it, actually I was wrong. A hell of a lot of Euros utilise the classic Fibonacci sequence for scoring purposes; and there it is - 13. It's never skipped on scoreboards, and some games even utilise it in the title. There are thirteen cards in every suit of a standard deck of playing cards, each player gets thirteen power cards in El Grande and Knizia's Poison has thirteen as the limit.

I reckon triskaidekaphobiacs must have a difficult time finding something they can play.
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Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:49 pm
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