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Subject: What went wrong? rss

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Ralph T
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This game appears to be the albatross of Z-man Games, the only publisher I have a microbadge for being a fan of. The name and concept is appealing, heck, Friedemann Frisse did the same thing with Copycat and appears to have pulled it off.

I'm not sure how many copies they produced but seeing a $60 game perpetually at $10 or less is pretty stunning.

Perhaps Steve Zamborsky could tell us what went wrong?

There appear to be a number of missteps:

Playtesting--was there enough done? Was it independent?

Promotion--Z-man games don't promote themselves. The designer needed to get the game out to people who would post favorable reviews so that the skew would be favorable. What about going to 'Cons to get favorable feedback and promote the game before its release? What would he have done differently?

Pricing--How did you end up with a $60 MSRP?

Production quality--the art, the map especially, is not appealing. Who was in charge of the art? How was it budgeted? Was there any possibility of getting meeples instead of cubes?

Manual--who wrote the manual?

Damage control--what could have been done better when negative ratings were coming in?
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Steve Zamborsky
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1. I am not Friedmann Friese. He has lots and lots of design credits under his belt, whereas this is my first published game - he and I are nowhere near in the same league; I'm like some Joe Schmo called up from the minors because they needed to fill a position on the roster, and he's Joe Carter. That said, I was delighted when he recognized my game at Spiel '10 because he was one of the game designers in the prototype (the Egyptian Rail Baron Gods used to be game designers you could select for their special abilities instead).

2. There was playtesting done and it was independent. However, I made a change to the rules at the last second that broke the game, because I didn't trust my original vision and thought it actually needed more(?!). If you want the reason why Caboose failed, that is probably 80-85% of it right there.

3. I wouldn't have done anything differently to promote Caboose. It is what it is, Z-Man doesn't promote their games, not up until recently. I would have kept this the same.

4. The price was supposed to originally be $50. I'm guessing the price hike went into place because there were so few copies produced (hear that, folks? Hang on to your copy - it'll be a collector's item someday! ).

5. The artist commissioned for the game was in charge of the art and graphic design. Actually, from what I recall about the project, one artist did some of the work and another was brought in to finish the graphic design elements. Not sure about the budgeting. Why would there be meeples? Those are fruit cubes!

6. I wrote the rulebook. Then I posted it to BGG and asked the community to help with re-writing it and finding errors and whatnot - Sheamus Parkes (Isamoor) contributed tons of rewrites and helpful re-wordings which I implemented. Jim Cote (ekted) did some early editing work, too. But the majority of it is my fault.

7. Not sure about this - once something is released to the public, be it a book, a movie, a game...once it's out there, there's little you can do to sway public opinion. I would have done some things differently (like not changed the rules without testing them first), but it is what it is when it's finished and released. I accomplished the goal of what I set out to do from the start - publish a board game. I'm happy to say that I did that, and doing a post mortem on the whole process (or the missteps I made along the way) will neither change things or take that away from me.

I will say that I learned a great deal from it all and have grown because of it. So I'd say it was a resounding success.

Best,
-Z
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David desJardins
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Zambo wrote:
Why would there be meeples? Those are fruit cubes!


Fruitples.
 
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Ralph T
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Thanks for your response. What was the last minute rule that was not sufficiently play tested?
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Steve Zamborsky
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You're welcome, Ralph.

In the original ruleset, players took fruit cards and held them in their hand. They were good only for producing fruit and for constructing buildings. Other than that, they were worthless. As I was writing and re-writing the rules, I thought it would be great to make them worth points at the end of the game, too. Why not, right? Euros have all kinds of convoluted endgame scoring, so it made sense to me at the time.

But I lacked the foresight to see that a) this would take a good chunk of tension out of the auctions, because now anything you would get from the auction was useful in some way, and b) it would provide an even further disincentive to players producing fruit. Hardly anyone ever did, by the way, prior to the rule change - but with that rule in place, no one wanted to produce fruit - even if it didn't hurt their points one bit, or very minimally. Because the illusion was in place that they were sacrificing something, when in effect, they weren't (or if they were, it would be helping them more to sacrifice than it would to hang on to a measly two points).

In any case, this one rule change turned the game from a somewhat mildly interesting send-up of Euros to something that was tedious and frustrating. Heck, maybe the initial ruleset was tedious and frustrating, too - but I never got that feedback with the playtesting prior.

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Dave Kudzma
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Caboose isn't the only Z-Man game that seemed to have gotten no attention.

- Spectral Rails 255 owners, 124 ratings
- Magnet 258 owners, 94 ratings
- Battle Beyond Space 236 owners, 122 ratings


The list goes on and on. Rio Grande has quite a few games in the same boat. I think it's a question of simply publishing games with no promotion of them. I certainly don't understand that.
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David desJardins
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locusshifter wrote:
The list goes on and on. Rio Grande has quite a few games in the same boat. I think it's a question of simply publishing games with no promotion of them. I certainly don't understand that.


I don't think they should spend any money on promotion. These games sell in proportion to how well they are received. Way too hard to overcome that.
 
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Ralph T
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DaviddesJ wrote:
locusshifter wrote:
The list goes on and on. Rio Grande has quite a few games in the same boat. I think it's a question of simply publishing games with no promotion of them. I certainly don't understand that.


I don't think they should spend any money on promotion. These games sell in proportion to how well they are received. Way too hard to overcome that.


$100 in review copies and a $100 in contest copies wouldn't hurt. It's a business expense.
 
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David desJardins
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ralpher wrote:
$100 in review copies and a $100 in contest copies wouldn't hurt. It's a business expense.


Well, I find the contests quite annoying, perhaps holding a contest for your game would make me slightly less likely to buy it, but probably not very much so, I agree.
 
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Patrick Moran
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Thank you, Steve for replying so candidly about the mistakes in this game.

My wife bought this for us when it first came out and it never made it to the table. I honestly couldn't figure out some of the rules and I knew that if we got a group to play it, it would just be a frustrating evening for everyone.

Heck! I couldn't even get past the rules for the auctions for the longest time! What an unbelievably poorly written mess.

And as others have pointed out, the artwork is dreadful.

Now I see that you admit to changing a rule after playtesting that makes the game tedious and frustrating but the game was a success because you learned a lot!

What about us that paid the full MSRP for it?

This game tainted Z-Man game's reputation in our eyes. We previously had taken the Z-Man brand as a sign of quality but now we'll be more careful.

(I had a longer rant here but deleted it. Nevermind. Live and learn.)
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David Zelasco
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Zambo wrote:
2. There was playtesting done and it was independent. However, I made a change to the rules at the last second that broke the game, because I didn't trust my original vision and thought it actually needed more(?!). If you want the reason why Caboose failed, that is probably 80-85% of it right there.


Do you have the original rules that you had made prior to the major change?
 
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Steve Zamborsky
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AmanuJaku wrote:
Zambo wrote:
2. There was playtesting done and it was independent. However, I made a change to the rules at the last second that broke the game, because I didn't trust my original vision and thought it actually needed more(?!). If you want the reason why Caboose failed, that is probably 80-85% of it right there.


Do you have the original rules that you had made prior to the major change?


Sure - essentially, the original rules are as follows:

1. Ignore any fruit scoring at the end of the game.

2. Fruit cards are in your hand like all the other Auction cards. You can use a fruit card on your turn in lieu of a fruit on the board when building a building; if there's a different fruit on that card, it's generated when the card is used - make sure to decrease the value of that fruit by one.

That's pretty much it, from what I recall. It makes fruits less valuable but the auction a whole lot more interesting.
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Harvey Cohen
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Steve,

We are playing our first game Saturday and want to make it as fun as possible. If you use these original rules instead of the final published ones, I would assume we would no longer need one of the fruit variants list here on the BGG below:

(of the three options below, which one do you think makes for the best game for newbies that want a fun game, thanks)

Fruit variants:

Option 1:
Some people have been turned off by the perception that there is a lack of incentive for producing fruit in the game, which I can certainly understand; it's not readily apparent how producing fruit can be better than hanging onto it in certain situations. To address this, I designed a mechanic to incorporate in the game which automatically produces fruits every turn. The official production variant is as follows:

At the end of the turn after checking to see if the game has ended, look at the X-2 cards in the City Display closest to the City deck, where X is the number of players in the game. Produce Fruits as shown on the City Card in the respective Cities displayed; if the Fruit is not in the common supply, it cannot be Produced in that City. Move the respective Market markers down one for each instance of the Fruit Produced. Additionally, every player loses one Victory Point for each face-up instance in front of them for each Fruit Produced; you cannot go below zero Victory Points on the Victory Point Track.

Option 2:
For those that are put off by the groupthink that may enter the game with the published Fruit production rule, here is one that's kinder:
When choosing the "Produce Fruit" action, you pick one of your face-up Fruit cards to use to Produce and discard a City card. Those Fruits are produced in that City, but your Fruit card is not discarded.

Option 3:
Use the rules that you originally play tested where player keep fruit cards in their hand and use them as needed for fruit and not score them at the end of the game. Also, with this option,do players still get the VPs for owning fruit cards when another player ships fruit to a city that you own no track in (I assume by showing the cards from their hand or do you no longer receive the extra VPs.
 
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Harvey Cohen
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I guess Steve has stopped trying to support this POS game as he couldn't trouble himself to answer a simple question to some new players wanting the best possible first experience with his failed game. After 3 days, no response to the question I posted nor the direct message as sent to his account. So we used fruit variant two but the game pretty much sucked and our group voted to never play the game again. Maybe I can get $5 during the next game swap at the game store but I doubt it since almost nobody likes this game. Hopefully Steve will never try and design game again because he has no skill set for it.
 
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William Crispin
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cohenhs wrote:
I guess Steve has stopped trying to support this POS game as he couldn't trouble himself to answer a simple question to some new players wanting the best possible first experience with his failed game. After 3 days, no response to the question I posted nor the direct message as sent to his account. So we used fruit variant two but the game pretty much sucked and our group voted to never play the game again. Maybe I can get $5 during the next game swap at the game store but I doubt it since almost nobody likes this game. Hopefully Steve will never try and design game again because he has no skill set for it.


He has not been logged into BGG during that time.
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Jay Waschak
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wwscrispin wrote:


He has not been logged into BGG during that time.


This would be why I imagine:
http://www.gofundme.com/9focno
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