Board Gamers Anonymous

Covering the whole length & breadth of the tabletop gaming experience. Posted here are excerpts from the blog's official website, boardgamersanonymous.com.

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TrendWatch '15: Digital designers going analog

Drew Davidson
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I'm fresh from cruising the Reddit /r/boardgame group, where I came across this item today, via Rock, Paper, Shotgun: "Solium Infernum Dev Vic Davis Leaves PC Games for Board Games." (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/01/05/solium-infernum-d...)

I'm not familiar with Vic's digital game Solium Infernum, though it sounds like something I'd enjoy: five 'archfiends' battle for control of Hell. If not enough players join the game, the AI fills in. (Thanks to Wikipedia for background.)

According to Vic's website, "I’m leaving the digital space and moving over to the card board arena where I hope my design skills can shine. It’s a natural transition since my games have all been very board game like. I hope that has been part of their charm."

What made this stick in my brain was a news item I remembered reading this past July on IndieCardboard.com. Titled "Opening the Knapsack, PopCap vet Andrew Federspiel talks going analog" (http://www.indiecardboard.com/opening-the-knapsack-popcap-ve...), it discussed Andrew's decision to start a company that publishes tabletop games.

That caught my eye at the time because I'd been a happy visitor to PopCap for many years. It's home to some of the greatest time-wasting games ever made. (Some people euphemistically call them "casual" games... I call them "time sinks"...)

In Andrew's words, "The time felt right to pursue my number one passion - tabletop - influenced by my distaste for the money-focused video game industry and the promise of the burgeoning Kickstarter scene." He already has a couple games in the production pipeline, Knee Jerk and Merc Mayhem.

Between the two items about digital designers switching over to analog, I'm wondering if there might be a trend brewing. Will more designers make the switch to board games? I'm curious to see what 2015 will bring...

BTW, I was tickled by a commenter's reaction to Vic's 'defection': "Competition among board game designers is immense. He’ll be hard pressed to come up with something fresh that plays well. On PC, you can get away with rehashing the same few concepts." Such an astute observation makes one wonder why an ambitious and imaginative designer would just walk away from such a digital utopia...
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Wed Jan 7, 2015 5:05 am
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You Should Know: Don't Trust the 'Recommended Age' on the Box

Drew Davidson
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I didn’t know this until this week. It’s fairly big news, even though it’s not new. It’s flown under our radar because it impacts game publishers more than it impacts game buyers. Still, you should know this, even if there’s nothing we can do about it….

The government is [fouling] things up again. Well, that’s not the news. That’s old news. But in this case, a government oversight agency has found a unique way to screw around with tabletop gamers.

I’ll let Board Game Geek user Daniel Corban (dcorban) lay it out for you…

Quote:
I just noticed that the current and recent printings of Carcassonne are marked for ages 13+. This is due to the required testing and (relatively high) financial tithe which must be made to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission for any "toy" marketed toward children under 13 years of age. The game, prior to this regulation, was marked for ages 8+.
-- Another victim of the CSPC, July 25, 2014
http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1208073/another-victim-cspc


Corban also points out that Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary is made in China and is listed for ages 8+.

Commenting on Corban’s thread, BGG member Pas L gave a humorous example of the effect these rules have…

Quote:
So this is why my copy of Skull says 8+ in French and 13+ in English. I thought it was just a subtle commentary on the competence of English speaking children!
While this has been public policy since 2012, most bloggers & podcasters aren’t on to it. And, until this week, I wasn’t aware of it, either.

Reviewers online are pointing out that a game’s age recommendation says age 13+, without realizing that the publisher is merely taking the easy road.

Even the reviewers at the Dice Tower Network are befuddled as to why family games are marketed to 13+ when they’re perfect for younger children. If Tom & Eric haven’t caught on yet to the effects of this ruling, then we should talk…

Welcome to the heretofore uncontroversial topic of Age Recommendations.

This minor controvery is based on guidelines issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, specifically the recently revised publication ASTM F 963-11, which applies to “Children’s toys manufactured after June 12, 2012….”

(A basic FAQ is here: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Business--Manufacturing/Business-Educ....)

First, a tabletop game is considered a “toy”... You’re not going to get around that. And the reason you’re not is... Meeples. Hundreds of tiny little game pieces that can be easily swallowed by toddlers who aren’t invited to the game table. Rugrats are small, but they’re quick; they can easily dart under the table just as soon as a careless player drops a sheaf of ‘wheat’ on the floor.

Primarily because of that,

Quote:
“If you are a manufacturer or importer of toys, you must test your children's toys for compliance with the toy safety standard…. Toys intended … for children 12 years of age and younger must be subjected to third party testing and certification at CPSC-accepted laboratories.”
In a nutshell, that’s why you’re seeing 13+ on more and more games.

The government’s guidelines, however, apply precisely to games for children under *14*… This is where the government's habit of splitting hairs can be more annoying than amusing…

Quote:
If the toy is intended … for children 13 years of age, then the toy is still subject to the requirements in ASTM F963-11, but you are not required to have the toy tested by a third party laboratory. ...


Yeah, you read right. The rules “technically” (CPSC’s word) apply to toys intended for children under *14*, but they’re going to ease up on the rules if the user is *exactly* 13 years old…

However… games intended for children 13 and under must still be tested in-house … as long as it’s certified.

Quote:
Although certain sections of the toy safety standard are exempted from third party testing, toys must be certified as being fully compliant.... Manufacturers are expected to test each product or ensure that the product has been subjected to a reasonable testing program.
So, how does a publisher tell what needs to be tested…?

Quote:
Because different toys have different characteristics, materials, and functions, every toy needs to be reviewed individually to determine what sections of the toy safety standard are applicable.... You should review the standard carefully and feel free to contact us if you have any questions. It also may be helpful to consult with a testing laboratory on which sections of the standard apply to your children's product or toy. [emphasis mine]
The CPSC makes it sound so harmless. But you can see why a lot of American publishers are getting around this scrutiny by labeling their games for 13+, even when the designer originally had a younger age range in mind.

And here’s why game publishers will get away with it: they’re smart enough to know that game buyers are smart enough to use Board Game Geek, a website smart enough to poll members for a game’s appropriate age range.

This is where BGG shows its primacy. As bloated as the site is, you can easily look up a game (on the web or with an app) and scroll down to user-recommended ages. In fact, this crowd-sourced information has always been more reliable than the manufacturers’ age suggestions.

If you want to know what the government (and a lot of reasonably concerned parents) are watching out for, look at the Checklist in government document ASTM F 963-11.
http://www.cpsc.gov/Business--Manufacturing/Business-Educati...

BTW, don’t think that Hasbro is too concerned about this. They have extensive testing processes in place, and I’m sure they have frequent contact with nearby third-party testers. I mean, if you’re a third-part tester and you want to keep your company busy, you’re going to move your base of operations as close to Hasbro’s HQ as possible. It’s win-win.

Thanks again to Daniel Corban for pointing this out!
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Thu Jul 31, 2014 6:24 pm
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Why I'm Curating the Internet

Drew Davidson
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The following is an excerpt of an article originally posted 7/15/14 to the Board Game Geek website. Read the entire article at:
http://boardgamersanonymous.com/curating-the-internet/

"Ah, but you may as well try and catch the wind." - Donovan.

Trying to gather up all the various threads of the Internet and corral them onto one page may seem like a fool's errand. But I've been training for this all my life....

My natural tendency, when I look at the wild, wild web, is to bring some order to it. That's why I've started 3 different series on Board Gamers Anonymous, to curate and present the best writing & ideas the Internet has to offer tabletop gamers....

It's not work if you're having fun. And I hope you get some enjoyment out these articles, too. Please let me know in the Comments if you like these curated posts, or if there's anything else you'd like to see on our blog.

Thanks for reading!
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Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:24 pm
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Games Magazine Suspends Publication. Again.

Drew Davidson
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This article originally appeared on the BGA website on June 13, 2014.
http://boardgamersanonymous.com/games-magazine-suspends-publ...

Maybe the most shocking thing about Kappa Publishing suspending Games Magazine is the fact that no one the tabletop gaming community seems to know about it. It’s like the old adage, If a journalist reports from a forest, and no one is listening, is it even News?

Not for the first time, the industry’s leading independent periodical has been forced to suspend publication due to lackluster circulation and revenues. And this time, no one is mourning.

Kappa Publishing, having built their empire on puzzles, will likely be reformatting the magazine for 2015, with even more of an emphasis on the paper-and-pencil side of gaming. So, rather than a shrinking glossy magazine with an ever-expanding paper insert, Games will just be a paper magazine, possibly with a glossy insert. It’s uncertain how much coverage there will be of table-top games, but it will be less than there is now.

With this year’s December issue (and Buyer’s Guide) cancelled, there’s no indication whether the editorial board (now minus the laid-off R. Wayne Schmittberger) will hand out end-of-year awards. Again, it wouldn’t be the first time there was such a gap.

Games was founded in 1977 by a Playboy Enterprises that was at the height of its publishing power. Will Shortz joined the magazine a year later, eventually becoming its editor in 1989. Having a gaming superstar at the top of the masthead didn’t keep the magazine from going out of business in 1990, just 3 years after Playboy sold it to PSC Limited.

With the brand languishing in limbo, mail order company Bits & Pieces (now BitsAndPieces.com) put it back on newsstands in 1991, with Shortz still at the helm. While Bits & Pieces may not have a large footprint in the tabletop world, they’re to be recognized for bringing Games back from the dead. In 1996, Kappa Publishing, a more natural fit, purchased the magazine and held on to it longer than any other publisher in Games’ 37-year history.

Throughout that time, the table-top gaming community never fully embraced Games, even though the Games 100 seal and its Game of the Year award were proudly displayed on game boxes. It seems that Games tried to cover too many formats for it to be considered an industry leader in any one category. Electronic, Video and Computer games all got their due attention. Increasingly, much of each issue was devoted to puzzles and their passionate solvers.

As the reading world in general shifted from paper to ether, and online magazines gained precedence over print, Kappa Publishing failed to keep up. Even now their website is static and two-dimensional. The September issue of Games – the last under the current format – proclaims the presence of an online version, but it was far too late to be making an entry into the digital world.

Nowhere was this seen more clearly than in the game reviews. As long-time reviewer John McCallion continued turning in tightly-written pieces of wit, conciseness and enthusiasm, he was still weeks behind blogs and podcasts rushing to post unedited reviews within days of a game’s release.

Indications are that Kappa will likely continue publishing game reviews in the revamped Games. But the only thing that’s certain is that McCallion won’t be writing them, having stepped down just weeks before the magazine’s suspension.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of game journalism that periodicals like Casual Game Revolution (which just secured a distribution deal that will put it on the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble)[http://casualgamerevolution.com/press/casual-game-insider-an...], Meeple Monthly, and Game Trade Magazine are thriving because their content is mostly sponsored by game publishers, while a high-quality and editorially independent beacon of the tabletop world languishes.

Do you think Games magazine still has a place in the tabletop gaming world? What articles have you enjoyed in the past? What would you like to see Games magazine become? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section!
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Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:03 pm
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