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Gaming From My Perspective

Omari Akil
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From gallery of BoardGameBrotha2
[Editor's note: First published in The Manifold and reprinted here with permission. —WEM]

As the tabletop gaming hobby expands toward more diverse markets, we will see more games that surprise us — not just in their themes or art styles, but in the way that they play. That also means that the way we design has to change as well. It means that current game design standards and conventions will need to stretch, bend, and occasionally break if we want to reach a diverse audience.

This hit home for me during final playtesting for Rap Godz, a strategy and storytelling game set in the world of up-and-coming hip-hop artists, and it made me rethink some of the ways I approach game design.

During a playtest session, two of the game's mechanisms — Beef and Pick Upz — were gently criticized several times. Beef is one of the only direct player interaction opportunities in the game, with one player "attacking" another and both rolling dice to determine the outcome. These playtesters essentially said Beef felt too random since there were few ways to change the outcome of the dice roll.

Pick Upz are small bonuses collected by being the first to cross point thresholds on each of the Rap Resource tracks. The comments suggested it was unfair that those who started the game in the lead on a resource track could more easily focus on and collect all the Pick Upz on that track.

These playtesters focused on the player's lack of control during Beef and on what they perceived as a runaway leader problem with Pick Upz. I listened to that feedback but never felt compelled to change anything throughout that conversation.

From gallery of BoardGameBrotha2
After a few days of reflection, I slowly began to realize that these design elements were intentional features of a game steeped in black culture and perspective, and that the playtesters' feedback was coming from a common set of design ideas that have been influenced by a predominantly white masculine perspective.

My tolerance for randomness and being in an unfair position is a product of my lived experience. I'm used to taking risks, and I understand that for reasons like prejudice and systemic racism I may have almost no influence on the outcome. I'm also more comfortable starting from a disadvantaged place and finding ways to overcome these things to the best of my ability, so I don't see as big of a problem with games that let some of these concepts persist, and sometimes I connect with them even more because of it.

As I was processing this, I think the group felt their feedback was being dismissed and I, of course, apologized for that — but I won't apologize for wanting players to feel a little bit of the pain of not being in control of certain outcomes. And I won't apologize for having players feel a little bit hopeless when they are starting at a disadvantage and have very few ways to catch up.

I won't apologize because as a black man in America, I feel those things almost every day. No one apologizes to me, and I don't need them to. What I do need is more people to understand that games created by me and other minority designers will step outside the design norms previously established by a white masculine tradition in gaming, and that it's necessary and important to move the industry forward with game designs that reflect our experiences and perspectives in the world that we live in.

•••

From gallery of BoardGameBrotha2
The Manifold is an email newsletter dedicated to exploring the world through the stories of tabletop games. Every week, The Manifold features thinkpieces and personal essays from writers and editors in the board game and RPG communities. Sign up for The Manifold here.

About the author: Omari Akil is the designer of Rap Godz and the co-founder, with Hamu Dennis, of Board Game Brothas, a New Orleans-based game design company that focuses on unique themes and dope gameplay experiences. Omari is also the host of "The Breakdown" and a partner at Pathways Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter: @OmariAkil.
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Mon Jul 6, 2020 1:00 pm
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Watch Game Demos for Days with BGG & Comic-Con International

W. Eric Martin
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In April 2020, San Diego Comic Convention announced that Comic-Con International (CCI) — which has run annually since 1970 — would not be held in July 2020 as planned, with that convention being replaced by the online event Comic-Con@Home. While breaking traditions can feel bad, this decision was not unexpected given the COVID-19 situation in California, across the United States, and around the world.

Tabletop games have always had a place at Comic-Con International, and they're going to be part of Comic-Con@Home, too, as BoardGameGeek is going to livestream game demonstrations and interviews with designers and publishers for four days during that event.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Yes, BGG had planned to run another BGG.CONline demo event in late July 2020, and that has now morphed into a partnership with CCI for four days of tabletop game coverage on July 23-26, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PDT (UTC-7) each day. I've been working on the broadcast schedule for much of the past week, while also creating a catalog of new games being released from June through August 2020. This preview takes the place of the Origins 2020 Preview and Gen Con 2020 Preview that I would normally publish, and new game release previews for Sept/Oct 2020 (replacing the SPIEL '20 Preview) and for Nov/Dec 2020 will be published later.

Many of the games to be featured during Comic-Con@Home can be found on that list — and I'll publish the broadcast schedule closer to the broadcast date — as we're trying to highlight what's hitting the market now instead of showing prototypes that won't be released for months or years. Given the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we might as well demo what's available now for folks staying at home and looking for things to do...
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Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:22 pm
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Roll Player Gets Deeper with Fiends & Familiars

Candice Harris
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Board Game: Roll Player
Keith Matejka's Roll Player began in 2016 as a puzzly, dice-drafting, fantasy character-building game and has since evolved into a full-on series with its expansions and spin-offs, Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale, Lockup: A Roll Player Tale, and the upcoming Roll Player Adventures. I would not be surprised to see a Roll Player video game or even Roll Player cereal in the future. Let it be known that if Roll Player cereal ever comes to fruition and has dice-shaped marshmallows, I'm all in.

Keith and Thunderworks Games kindly hooked me up with a copy of Fiends & Familiars, the newest expansion for Roll Player, so I could do some serious character building and monster killing.

If you're not already hip to Roll Player, let me start by giving you a brief overview of what this dice-driven game for 1-4 players (1-5 with the expansions) is all about. In Roll Player, you are competing to create the greatest fantasy adventurer and prepare your character for an epic quest. Along the way you'll get to stuff your hand into a sack filled with a ton of colorful dice that will be used to develop your characters for the game. Each player gets their own character sheet and a unique backstory, alignment, and class that grants you a special ability and target goals for each of your character's attributes.

Each round, you roll and draft dice to be placed on your character sheet to build up your character's attributes. Whenever you place a die, you can trigger an attribute action depending on the row in which you've place it. For example, placing a die in your strength row lets you flip a die (including the one you just place) on its opposite side. When placing dice, you're trying to hit target goals for each attribute based on your class card, while also trying to match colors in certain positions corresponding to your backstory card. The better you do this, the more reputation stars you earn. Whoever has the most reputation stars at the end of the game wins.

From gallery of candidrum

You also get the opportunity to buy market cards that could be skills and weapons that grant you special abilities or traits with endgame scoring opportunities. There's also some set collection with different types of armor you can buy for your character. It's a nice blend of thinky puzzle mixed with creativity since the character you're building will be unique from your opponents.

Board Game: Roll Player: Monsters & Minions
In 2018, Thunderworks Games released Monsters & Minions, the first expansion for Roll Player. With the addition of monsters and minions, Roll Player elevated to a new level giving players more options, adding components for a fifth player, and making the game a more exciting experience since the character you're building will also combat minions and a monster at the end of the game to hopefully earn you more reputation stars. Monsters & Minions also ramped up the game's complexity a hair, which I am totally cool with. You have the usual fun puzzle aspect, but you also have an added choice during the market phase of fighting a minion to possibly gain experience (XP), honor, and (perhaps most importantly) insight on the monster you'll be pitted against at the end of the game.

The Fiends & Familiars expansion, which was released in June 2020, seamlessly builds from where the Monsters & Minions expansion left off, with even more depth and the addition of fiends and familiars, special split dice, more cards, character sheets, and components. You can play the Fiends & Familiars expansion with just the base game or as recommended in the rulebook, with the base game and the Monsters & Minions expansion.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars

Fiends & Familiars comes with fifteen different familiar boards that represent friendly companions, each with their own backstory and a unique power that gets activated when you place dice on it. Each familiar board sits above the standard character boards and gives players more ways to earn reputation stars.

On the left side of the familiar boards is a slot for new scroll cards that represent powerful, ancient spells. Scroll cards can be purchased in the card market and give players an immediate one-time effect. Players typically save these cards since some game effects refer to scroll cards.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
Familiar Board examples

On the right side of the familiar board is a slot for new fiend cards that are not so nice, as you'd imagine. The fiends represent creatures that have infested the kingdom, and in terms of gameplay, will be making it more challenging for players to achieve their goals. Each round, fiend cards will be on some of the initiative cards that hold the higher value dice.
Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
When players draft a die from an initiative card that has a fiend, they acquire that fiend. Have no fear as it is possible to banish fiends by spending gold or charisma tokens. Some of the fiends force you to pay more gold for certain types of cards, take injury tokens when performing certain actions, prevent you from using effects of skill or weapons cards, or even force you to hunt during the market phase instead of buying cards, something I unfortunately experienced with the Fiend of Duress.

As if it weren't tough enough deciding which die to draft when you're thinking about the value, or the color, or even your turn order for the market phase, now these bloody fiend cards create even tougher decisions when drafting dice. You also have to consider whether it's worth taking a higher value die along with a hindering fiend. Maybe certain fiends won't impact you much, but trust me, others will. The good news is that it's not too hard to banish those suckers so they're no longer in effect, although it can become costly to banish them if you end up accumulating several. In my case, though, I snagged the Exalted trait card that gave me a reputation star for every two banished fiend cards I had at the end of the game. With this trait, I was practically incentivized to take more fiends, but also keep up with banishing them.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
In addition to the fiends and familiars, the expansion also includes six new monsters and 23 new minions, in addition to more of all the other card types. This is excellent because if you don't already have the Monsters & Minions expansion, you can start with the Fiends & Familiars expansion and get a small taste of what Monsters & Minions adds along with the fiends and familiars, too. Then once you get hooked and are starved for more, you can get Monsters & Minions and have even more cards and dice to experiment with.

The new split dice that come in the Fiends & Familiars expansion are pretty cool. The Monsters & Minions expansion added new clear boost dice that ranged from 3 to 8, which was super helpful in terms of value, but not at all colorwise. Fiends & Familiars, on the other hand, comes with these funky, split-colored dice that count as both colors wherever they're placed. To balance out this helpful feature, the split dice range from only 1 to 4. Consequently, it'll be a lot harder to hit those higher attribute goals with these puppies, but you'll likely do better with your main character and familiar's backstory scoring. It does take some getting used to the multicolored pips, but I can always appreciate special, custom dice.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

I should also mention you can play Roll Player solo, and it's pretty fun. I prefer playing multiplayer, but I find the solo mode scratches the same puzzly itch, which I enjoy. I just miss some of the player interaction, especially with the dice drafting, when playing solo. The game moves quickly once you're all set up, especially if you're not prone to heavy AP, but it does take time to get the market deck set up since you need to remove certain cards from the giant deck (if you have both expansions), in addition to the usual market deck set-up process that requires you to separate the single-dot cards from the double-dot cards. If you're organized when you pack it up, it shouldn't bog you down much.

The artwork from JJ Ariosa, Luis Francisco, and Lucas Ribeiro, and component quality are top notch. I especially love the art on the monster and minion cards. It all ties together well and helps make the Roll Player experience more thematic.

Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars
Board Game: Roll Player: Fiends & Familiars

The Fiends & Familiars expansion is not supposed to fit in the base game box with the Monsters & Minions expansion, but I'm going to use my Tetris skills to see what I can do. I do see that Thunderworks Games offers the new expansion as a big box on its website where you can comfortably fit the base game and both expansions as an option, but these Roll Player boxes are nice quality, so it might be worthwhile to keep them all handy.

Keith Matejka and Thunderworks Games have mastered the art of variety with Roll Player and its expansions, Monsters & Minions and Fiends & Familiars. You have a ton of different character sheets to choose from with female and male sides, 15 different familiar boards, and so many character-related cards, fiend cards, market cards, adventure cards, monster cards and minion cards. So many cards! It really feels like endless combinations are possible, and while you're running through the same phases and structure each game, it will feel different depending on what market cards and minions are revealed, the special abilities you end up with, which monster you're fighting, etc.

If you already enjoy Roll Player, whether with or without Monsters & Minions, you will probably enjoy what the Fiends & Familiars expansion adds to the mix. If you were lukewarm after playing the base game alone, I think you should give it another shot with either or both of the expansions. While I'd still probably only play the base game with more casual gamers, I think gamers who prefer a bit more meat on the bone will dig everything the Fiends & Familiars expansion has to offer. I'm pumped to see what Keith Matejka cooks up next for Roll Player, although with all of the existing content, I don't think I'd ever get bored...
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Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:00 pm
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Hedgehog Roll Wins 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres

W. Eric Martin
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Board Game: Hedgehog Roll
Board Game: Hedgehog Roll
Hedgehog Roll from designer Urtis Šulinskas and publisher Piatnik has won the 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres, Germany's game of the year award for children's games.

In the game, which goes by the title Speedy Roll in its German edition and which originated from Russian publisher Lifestyle Boardgames, players race one another down paths in the forest to reach a house first. You can advance on a path only by picking up the right items that you need to move — and you pick up items by rolling yourself (in fact, a tennis ball with stuck-on eyes) across a field of mushrooms, apples, and leaves that have hook-and-loop patches on their backsides. Pick up a leaf and apple when you roll, and you can then move to a leaf space, followed by an apple space or vice versa. Pick up too many things, however, and you don't move at all.

Board Game: Hedgehog Roll
Image by Geert Vanbellinghen

You can adjust the layout of paths to make the game longer or shorter, and the game also includes a co-operative version in which everyone moves a single hedgehog that must reach the house before being eaten by a fox.

Hedgehog Roll was also nominated for the 2020 As d'Or in the category of children's games. You can watch two complete games of Hedgehog Roll, along with a playing of the KidJ-nominated Wir sind die Roboter from Reinhard Staupe and NSV and an overview of Michael Kallauch's KidJ-nominated Foto Fish from LOGIS in this special episode of GameNight! Who correctly guessed the 2020 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner?!

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Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:00 pm
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Convention Previews Are Out; New Game Release Previews Are In!

W. Eric Martin
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Origins Game Fair, Gen Con, and SPIEL aren't taking place the same way that they normally would — Origins more than most, but that's a topic for another post — so instead of assembling convention previews for conventions that won't function in their usual way, I thought it would make more sense for the remainder of 2020 to have "new game release" previews that highlight when games will be hitting retail markets.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

In order to organize what I'm doing and make it easier for you to spot what's new on a list, I've grouped new and upcoming game releases into three categories:

• Games hitting retail between June 1 and August 31, 2020 (roughly Origins and Gen Con)
• Games hitting retail from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, 2020 (a.k.a. SPIEL '20 titles)
• Games hitting retail from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020 (holiday releases)

The New Game Release preview for June-August 2020 is live, debuting with 59 titles listed and with more being added as publishers respond to a survey that I sent out in early June and as I go through distributor lists that highlight release dates. I'll most likely publish the Sept-Oct preview near the beginning of August 2020, which was the planned publication date for the SPIEL '20 Preview.

Note that these previews are solely for game releases. I'm not cataloguing Kickstarter launch dates and game demoes on online platforms. Many folks love previewing future releases at conventions, but I'm not covering conventions in these previews, so I decided to stick with what's hitting stores so that folks staying at home know what's available to them when.

Note also that since BGG is a global site, these new game release previews will list games to be released in retail outlets that aren't necessarily in your country. If something sounds good to you, ideally you'll find a way to get it onto your table.

If you're a publisher that plans to release a game between June and December 2020, but you didn't receive a survey from me, please comment or email me, and I'll send you the link.
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Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:00 pm
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Vote for the Charles S. Roberts Awards for the First Time since 2013

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From gallery of pzmcgwire
After a seven-year slumber, the Charles S. Roberts Awards have been reawakened thanks to director Tim Tow!

Named after the founder of the Avalon Hill Game Company, the Charles S. Roberts (CSR) Awards are the oldest board game awards, dating back to 1975. In fact, the awards were first issued at the Origins Game convention in 1975 and had been issued annually through 2013 with a hiatus until this year. Voting is open through June 15, 2020 and ballots can be submitted online, emailed to charlessrobertsawards@gmail.com, or can you believe it? — sent via the vintage option of snail mail. I figured I'd pass this info along to hopefully get as much gamer participation as possible.

The rules for voting are pretty clear on the website, and you can vote for up to three games or individuals in as many or as few categories as you'd like — it's really up to you. The goal is to have as broad of a voter base as possible, so they're trying to make it convenient for people to vote.

Although the focus is on wargames, any game that has a historical or conflict simulation element would qualify, so pretty much any game or publication released in 2019 is eligible as long as it fits in one of the categories below:
Quote:
Milieu Awards
• Best Ancients to Pre-Napoleonic Era Board Wargame
• Best Napoleonic Era Board Wargame
• Best Post-Napoleonic to Pre-World War 2 Era Board Wargame
• Best World War 2 Era Board Wargame
• Best Post-WW2, Cold War, & Hypothetical Era Board Wargame
• Best Science-Fiction or Fantasy Board Wargame

Format Awards
• Best Solitaire/Cooperative Board Wargame
• Best Magazine Board Wargame
• Best Amateur / Print-and-Play Board Wargame
• Best Postcard/Small format Board Wargame
• Best Expansion or Supplement for an Existing Board Wargame
• Best Board Wargame Playing Components
• Best Board Wargame Map Graphics
• Best Board Wargame Rules
• Best Original Box Cover Art

Computer Gaming Awards
• Best Pre-20th Century Era Computer Wargame
• Best Modern Era Computer Wargame
• Best Science-Fiction or Fantasy Computer Wargame
• Best Computer Wargame Expansion or Update
• Best Computer Wargame Graphics
• Best Board Wargame Computer Assist Module

Publication Awards
• Best Professional Wargame Magazine
• Best Amateur Game Magazine
• Best Historical or Scenario Article
• Best Game Review or Analysis

Overall Awards
• Best Board Wargame of the Year
• James F Dunnigan Award for Playability and Design
• Clausewitz Award HALL OF FAME
Since the 2012 CSR Awards were issued, Tow and the CSR Awards Board of Governors have modified the award categories to reflect changes in the board gaming industry in the past decade.

1) The first historical period (Best Ancients to Napoleonics) was divided into two categories because more games are released for these periods than in the past:
____• Best Ancients to Pre Napoleonic (anything before 1792)
____• Best Napoleonic (1792-1815)

2) The Board Wargame Graphics category has been split into multiple categories because nowadays components, rulebooks, and maps are done by different people:
____• Best Rules Presentation
____• Best Map Graphics
____• Best Components
____• Best Box Cover Art

3) A Best Computer Assist Module category was added to represent the growing trend of people using online tools such as Vassal, Tabletop Simulator, and Cyberboard to play board games.

The CSR Awards Board has a few more categories in mind to incorporate in 2021 and welcomes feedback/suggestions from the community:
____• Best Podcast
____• Best Board Game Computer Implementation, which may replace or supplement the Computer Assist category
____• Best game of the last five years to highlight games that are standing the test of time

Even though podcasts and web articles are not explicitly set as a category for the 2019 awards, they do count for the Best Analysis and Scenario categories.

I also want to call out the Clausewitz Hall of Fame award, which is the last category on the list above, but quite possibly the most important. Named after legendary military writer Carl von Clausewitz, the Clausewitz Hall of Fame award is intended to recognize a lifetime of excellence to individuals who have made a significant impact on the hobby. Just remember when submitting your vote for this award that anyone who has been a previous recipient is not eligible to win again (i.e., Mark Hermanwe were all thinking it).

Tim Tow sees the Charles S. Roberts Awards as a helpful source for discovering new games which inspired the awards' rebirth in 2020. It's clearly also a great way to acknowledge all the great conflict simulation games and creators behind them. If you're interested in voting or learning more about the Charles S. Roberts Awards, be sure to check out their website. I'll be looking forward to seeing the results!
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Tue Jun 9, 2020 2:33 pm
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Advice for Designers and Publishers: How to Submit Listings for Games, People and Publishers to the BGG Database

W. Eric Martin
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
[Editor's note: I first published this guide in December 2014, but the BGG layout and UI has changed since then, so I've updated this guide with new images and clarified directions. —WEM]

Some articles in my "Advice for Designers and Publishers" series will be relevant whether or not these people are active on BGG, such as the introductory article on how to write a press release; other articles, however, pertain solely to the ins-and-outs of BGG, but a side benefit of such omphaloskepsic posts is that they will be useful to BGG users at large, such as today's article about how to submit items to the BGG database.

I've heard from more than one user that they found the submission process confusing. I can't argue with that. As with many parts of BGG, the submission process has changed over time, with bits being added or removed as the needs of the site and requests of the users change over time. If this submission process changes greatly in the future, I'll write another article to address those changes; for now, though, this should cover what you need to know. If it doesn't, ask questions in the comments section and I'll answer them and update this article.

Before we get to the how, let's start with the what?

•••

What's the mission of BoardGameGeek? And what is this database I'm referencing?

The short answer: "BoardGameGeek is a database and social community that's centered around board games, and its mission is to be the definitive resource on every board game ever created."

For now, when you look at the BGG front page, you see tons of posts and reviews and questions about this-or-that game, and by clicking around you'll find yourself on some part of the database: a game listing, a video highlighting how to play a game, etc.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

To get a sense of the entire database, click "Browse" in the upper menu bar, then click on "All Boardgames" (circled in the image above); doing so brings up a list of the 117,000+ items in the BGG database as of June 4, 2020, with these games being organized by rank with Gloomhaven at #1 and Tic-Tac-Toe at #19010, followed by nearly one thousand pages of unranked games. (A game needs at least thirty ratings to become ranked. To rate a game, click on the star of your choice in the black info box at the top of a game page, as demonstrated in the image below. You'll then be invited to leave a comment to accompany your rating. You must be logged in to rate a game.)

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Quote:
Fun sidenote: When I first posted this article in Dec. 2014, Tic-Tac-Toe was ranked last at #10453, and it was followed by more than six hundred pages of unranked games. Thus, in five-and-a-half years, more than 8,500 games have become ranked and more than 35,000 unranked items have been added to the database. In other words, the BGG database is averaging more than six thousand new entries annually.
So is BGG the "definitive resource"? We're not 100% there since new games are being published every day and thousands of older games remain uncatalogued, but with sites like Luding.org listing 31k games (25k in 2014) and TricTrac.net listing 18k (16k in 2014), BGG might have a better claim to that title than anyone else.

To keep that database growing and to try to reach the (unobtainable) 100% completeness bar, we input some game information ourselves — primarily through me adding titles in advance of game conventions such as Spielwarenmesse, FIJ, Origins, Gen Con, and SPIEL — while getting most of that information via user submissions, which leads us to the following question and our true starting point:

•••

How does one submit items to the BGG database?

To start, you need to click on another term in the upper menu bar: "Community".

From gallery of W Eric Martin

This section has a variety of interesting things to explore, while also highlighting material submitted by your fellow BGG users (images, blogs, podcasts, etc.) and links to submit games, publishers, and people (i.e., designers and artists) to the database. I'll skip how to submit accessories, podcasts and families (with a family being a group of games related in some manner) to focus on these other things.

Clicking on "Board Game" brings up this crazy-long form:

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Whoa. Lots to absorb there, but thankfully we can start with something simpler, namely how to add people and publishers to the database. What's more, if a designer or artist or publisher isn't already in the database, we suggest that you submit listings for them first. In practice, you can submit games first and the other stuff later or vice versa, but by submitting people and publishers first, you should ideally then be able to submit a more complete game listing — and since game listings are the raison d'être of the database, better to have them be as polished as possible.

Before you submit anything, though, I'll point out the following pages that you might find of interest:

Pending game submissions
Pending people submissions
Pending publisher submissions

These pages show the pending submissions that BGG users have already submitted. If you search these lists and find the game, person or publisher that you had planned to submit, you can relax as someone else has already done the job for you. If, however, you are the publisher or designer in question, feel free to continue with this process and point out in the "Note to Admin" section on each page that you are the publisher or designer in question, or you are responsible for the game in question.

With that out of the way, we'll now jump to...

•••

How to submit a publisher listing

Click on "Publisher" under "Community", and you'll see the following screen (but without the red numbers in place):

From gallery of W Eric Martin

You didn't realize it was that easy to create a publisher, did you? Fill out this form, and *poof* you've got yourself a publisher! Well, okay, to be technical you have created a submission for a publisher listing in the approval queue, but it's something.

To complete this form, add the following information:

Board Game Publisher: Funforge
1. Primary Name: Type the publisher's name as it appears on the publisher's website, perhaps in the "Contact us" or "About us" sections as those should give you the precise way that the name is spelled. Why is that important? Because you can't always grasp a publisher's name from its logo. Look at the logo at right for example. Is the name "Fun Forge", "FunForge", "Funforge", "FUNFORGE", or something else entirely? A quick look at the publisher's "About us" page reveals that the name is "Funforge", which is how we list it in our database.

In some cases, as with Chinese, Japanese and Korean publishers, a publisher has more than one name, say a name in its original language ("カナイ製作所") and a translated name in English ("Kanai Factory"). Please submit the English name as the primary name since that is easier for the majority of BGG users to search for and to type on their keyboards; in the "Note to Admin" section, write something like "Alternate name: カナイ製作所" and whichever admin approves the submission will ideally add this alternate name to the publisher listing.

If a publisher's name includes characters from multiple languages, such as "Nukenin合同会社", then submit that as the name of the publisher and note the combined nature of the name in the "Note to Admin". If a publisher doesn't have a name in Roman characters, such as Japanese publisher ビストロ怪談倶楽部 , then please submit the name as follows with a translation in parentheses: "ビストロ怪談倶楽部 (Bistro Kaidan Club)", which is what we have listed on that publisher's page. This format preserves the original name, but also provides a more searchable name for general use.

2. Description: Feel free in this section to quote from the publisher's "About us" — preferably finishing this section by writing "—description from the publisher" — but if you know something about the publisher firsthand, write the description in your own words. If you know nothing else about the publisher, simply write "Japanese publisher" or something similar and cross your fingers that someone else will fill in the details later.

3. Board Game Credits: Given that the publisher is not listed in the database — and it's not listed, is it? you did search for it first before heading to this form? — the name of any games published by this entity will likely not be listed in the database either.

Or will they? New publishers sometimes come into being in order to release a new version of an out-of-print game or a game published only in some other part of the world. Stronghold Games was one such example of this, with its first release being a new version of Robert Abbott's Confusion, which had appeared only in a short-run edition from German publisher franjos in 1992. Thus, if you're submitting a listing for a publisher releasing a new edition of a published game, click "Add Board Game Credits", enter the game's name, then click on that name. When this publisher listing is approved, the publisher's name will then appear on that game listing and the publisher listing will show a credit for that game.

If the game's name doesn't come up when you search for it (or a matching name is for a different game), leave this section blank as you'll submit the game listing later.

4. Note to Admin: Use this section to include information about alternate names, to list the URL of the publisher's website or its Facebook page (to provide proof of its existence), to note that you represent this company (if you are), or to tell us whatever else seems relevant to this submission.

5. Click the "Save" button.

Okay, that was relatively easy, so let's move on to...

•••

How to submit a designer or artist listing

Click on "Person" under "Community", and you'll see the following screen (but without the red numbers in place):

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Create person?! Why that sounds like a great idea!


Anyway, this form allows you to submit the name of either a designer or artist to the database, and it works much like the publisher submission form:

1. Name: As with the publisher listing, you want to submit a name that represents how that designer or artist wants it to appear in print. "Eric M. Lang", for example, is how that designer's name appears on games, so that's how it should be listed in the BGG database.

Also as with publisher listings, if a person uses both a Roman-letter name and a character-based name, please use the English transliteration of a person's name as the primary name ("Seiji Kanai") while adding in the "Note to Admin" box something like "Alternate name: カナイセイジ". Please submit names in the order of (given name) (family name) to ensure consistency across the database. With Kanai's name, for example, his name in Japanese is in the order used by that country — (family name) (given name) — but for his primary name we use (given name) (family name), which is also how it appears on most game boxes.

And to repeat another note from publisher listings, if a person uses only a character-based name, such as "わけん", then please submit the name in this format — "わけん (Reason)" — with an English-language translation in parentheses following the name.

2. Description: As with publisher listings, you might be able to pull a biography of the person from a personal website, but you might be limited to "Japanese designer", "French artist", or something similarly lame. So it goes.

3. Board Game Designer (Artist) Credits: As with publisher listings, the game which this person has created (or illustrated) may or may not already be in the BGG database. Sometimes a user finds out about a game without knowing the creator or artist and submits it. Thus, you can search for the game name and click it if the game is already in the system; if not, don't click anything and move on.

4. Note to Admin: Feel free to include alternate names, links to personal websites, the fact that you are the person in question, and other details that help prove your case that the person in the submission is the correct person. Proof is always better than your say-so, but often your say-so is good enough for us until proven otherwise.

5. Click the "Save" button.

That was also simple, yes? Once you've submitted listings for the designer, artist, and publisher, feel free to get yourself a fresh cup of coffee in order for the BGG cache to record your submissions. From experience, I'd guess this takes one to several minutes, after which you'll be able to choose this designer or publisher when submitting a game listing — even though these earlier submissions have not yet been approved.

Okay, now it's time to move to the big challenge:

•••

How to submit a game listing

Click on "Board Game" under "Community", and you'll see the following screen (but without the red numbers in place):

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Note that I've broken the game submission page into three pieces in order to provide interludes and cover stuff in related groups. With that said, let's get started, examining each of the numbered sections in turn:

0. Guide to Game Submissions: Note that BGG already has a "Guide to Game Submissions" in its wiki, and to some degree I'm duplicating that effort through this post. Perhaps I should have merely updated and expanded that page, but it's been there forever and is somewhat invisible, whereas people can comment on this post, ask questions, and perhaps better figure out all of the details to this process. Perhaps in the future, I can transfer this material to that wiki. Duplication of effort — it's the American way!

1. Primary Name: This is the title of the game, with the ideal format being "Title: Subtitle – Additional Subtitle", with a colon separating the title from subtitle and an en dash separating the subtitle from additional subtitle. (We have a program that automatically compiles titles not in this format so that we can standardize them, but if you want to do that up front, we'd love you just a little bit more.)

One note about subtitles: We are now leaning toward not including additional subtitles — or even subtitles — unless they differentiate the game from other games with similar names or the publisher uses the subtitle consistently as a critical part of the game's title. We'll have more to say about this topic once we officially change the submission guidelines.

Once again, as with publisher and person submissions, we prefer to have a title in English for games released with non-Roman letter titles. If the title is in, say, German, then leave it in German and don't use an English title because most BGG users can type "Die enorme Fuß und die winzigen Toe" without much trouble. Typing "あ~した天気にニャ~れ!!", on the other hand, is more challenging, so rather than require almost everyone to cut and paste, we ask that an English translation of the title be included in parentheses following the original title if no version of the game with a Romanized title exists — in this case, the game is listed in the BGG database as "あ~した天気にニャ~れ!! (Wishing for Fine Weather!!)".

Board Game: Little Town
If, however, a game is released with titles in both a Romanized and a character-based language, as with "Little Town Builders", a.k.a. "リトルタウンビルダーズ", then use "Little Town Builders" as the primary name and use the "Note to Admin" section to write "Alternate title: リトルタウンビルダーズ" so that an admin can add this info to the approved game listing.

2. Description: Ideally in this section you can submit a 1-4 paragraph description of the game written in a neutral voice that covers the game's setting, goal, and gameplay.

In general, your goal is to describe the game in enough detail that the description wouldn't fit another game while not going into so much detail that you're describing the entirety of the game. By covering the setting, you tell us our role in the game world; by explaining the goal, you tell us what we're trying to do in this world; and by describing the gameplay, you tell us how to move toward achieving that goal. That sounds abstract and clinical, but your description doesn't have to come across that way. Feel free to include personality in the description, but keep away from marketing talk — "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master", "fun for the whole family" — and other nonsense like that.

If nothing else is handy, go ahead and use the description from the publisher, but please include a "''—description from the publisher''" footer (with the double apostrophes creating italic text in the wiki) and remove fluff sentences that relate more to selling the game than describing it.

3. Short description: BGG introduced this feature in May 2020, and the short take on short descriptions is that you should submit a sentence of at most 85 characters that attempts to convey the essence of this game. I wrote much more on this topic with many examples here.

4. Year released: In which year was the game first available for purchase through retail outlets? That year counts as the game's debut, so that's what we want to list. (Note that we previously used this field to record the first availability of a game to people not involved with its creation. This description is subtly different from the current guideline and affects primarily Kickstarted games delivered at the end of one year but released at retail in the subsequent year. As with the change to the primary name, we'll have more to say on this topic later.)

5. Minimum and maximum players: In general, these fields are easy to complete because you can look at the box or publisher's website or retailer listing and see this information.

Board Game: For Sale
That said, the question isn't always clear because sometimes that information changes from one version to another, or from one publisher to another. When Uberplay released its version of For Sale, it added more components so that up to six people could play whereas the original edition maxed out at five players. Some versions of Puerto Rico include rules for playing with two, whereas the earliest editions allowed for only 3-5 players. What to do, what to do? We tend to allow for the widest range of players possible because even if your particular copy of PR doesn't have two-player rules, you can probably find rules to make it happen. Perhaps we should list a player count for each version of the game, but that way lies madness.

6. Minimum age: Again, this field seems easy, but different publishers have different standards. Many publishers in the U.S., for example, adopt a minimum age of 13+ or 14+ so that they don't have to undergo expensive CPSIA tests required for children's products even though a game labeled for ages 10+ is by no means a children's product! In these cases, we again tend to go for whatever the widest range is, working under the assumption that kids in Europe and Asia aren't that much smarter than kids in the U.S.

7. Minimum and maximum playing time: Once again, look to the box for such numbers. If only one value is given for a playing time, please place that number in both fields since the advanced search function lets you specify only one of them when conducting a search.
Quote:
I'll note that in 2014, "playing time" was only a single field. Here's what I had written at that time: "When BGG was set up, someone decided to make this field accept only a single numeral instead of a range of numerals, so when confronted with a playing time of 30-60 minutes, we tend to split the difference and list the playing time as 45 minutes. Ideally we could split this into two fields so that games at the extreme such as Caverna (for 1-7 players and playing in 30-210 minutes) would be more accurately represented, but I'm not a tech guy and have been warned that it would be hard to do this now, especially since such a change could invite 70,000 game corrections, with different versions of games having different playing times in addition to different suggested ages. Fun!"

Well, we did it, by George, and 70,000+ corrections later, we're still standing!
8. Category and mechanism: For these two areas, you click on the link and choose whatever is appropriate on the lists presented to you. I understand the arguments that BGG sometimes blurs categories and mechanisms in these lists, but righting these "wrongs" is outside my area of expertise. (BGG vastly expanded the mechanisms it catalogs in 2019 as explained here and here.)

9. Family: I mentioned families above when I talked about submission types that I won't cover. For many games you can search for reasonable sounding families and often find ones that already exist in the database: families related to countries and cities, families related to animals and professions, families related to media properties and authors, and on and on and on.

10. Expands: Use this field if the item you're submitting is an expansion for an existing game and not itself a standalone game. This last bit is important because when something is categorized as an expansion, then it cannot be ranked in the BGG system, no matter how many ratings it has. (We removed expansions from the rankings some years ago because expansions are nearly always rated higher than the base games. After all, if you hate the base game or are even indifferent to it, you'll likely avoid the expansion, which means that it's played mostly by those who are more prone to like it.)

And hey, check out how this section continued in 2014:
Quote:
Thus, for items like the next Ascension set (which is both a standalone item and an expansion for all other Ascension sets) or a Smash Up set that functions in the same way, please don't use the "expands" link because the item can also function as a standalone game and we want to classify it in that manner. For now we use an "Integrates with:" list to get around this pothole, as can be seen in the description of this Ascension game, but I'd like to see a dedicated "Integrates with:" two-way linking system added to a game's main info box in the future. I've lobbied for this, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm not the tech guy, so I ask for all sorts of things without having any idea of how complicated they'd be to implement.
Turns out that we could indeed add this field, so we did:

11. Integrates with: If a game is a standalone game, yet also serves as an expansion for another game (with that game likewise serving as an expansion for the title being added, as with the Ascension and Smash Up families mentioned above), then link to those integrable titles here.

12. Contains: This field is for items such as Puerto Rico: Limited Anniversary Edition, which differs from the Puerto Rico base game in that it includes some of the existing expansions and tons of juicy components and would likely be bought and rated by folks who already love the base game, thus skewing it higher in the rankings and giving PR two spots in the BGG ranking list even though at heart it's the same thing. If you're submitting something like a thirtieth anniversary edition of Bohnanza (coming in 2027!) that includes multiple expansions, then you'd use this field to link to all of the items already listed in the database that it contains.

Board Game: Lords of Xidit
This set-up isn't perfect. The 2014 release Lords of Xidit is packaged with two bonus cards for Seasons, a separate game set in the same world. Technically Lords of Xidit contains these expansion cards for Seasons, but if we use that "contains" link, then Xidit won't be ranked, even though it should be. We know about the problem, but lack a solution. It's such a corner case that we'll probably see something like this at most a half-dozen times a year, yet you still want a way to list this cleanly. Well, at least I do anyway...

13. Reimplements: Is the game that you're submitting a new version of a previously released game and (this is the important part) the designer or publisher has stated this directly? The 2014 release Rattlebones plays very much like a Dominion with dice, and Rattlebones designer Stephen Glenn has stated that he was inspired by Dominion for this design, but in no way would we list Rattlebones as a reimplementation of Dominion.

More recently, the 2019 title Nova Luna is based on the 2016 title Habitats, with Habitats designer Corné van Moorsel bearing a co-designer credit on Nova Luna and the link between the two games being described in the Nova Luna rulebook, so the reimplementation link connects these two designs to show their relationship.

14. Designer/Artist: Click on the links in these fields, find the appropriate people, then click on those names to add them to this game listing. You did add them to the BGG database earlier, yes?

15. Publisher: As with the above section, search for the publisher or publishers responsible for this game and click on them.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

16. Version Information: Versions were added to the BGG database in 2009, and the goal behind listing them was to allow people to track exactly which version of a game they own, to indicate which version you're selling in the marketplace (although doing so is optional), and to compare the images for this or that version that's been released over the years.

What's the difference between a version and a new game? It's a fine line, and something that's tough to define, although some BGG admins have tried to do so in lengthy detail. As I mentioned earlier, Uberplay's For Sale that allows up to six players is listed as a new version of the original Ravensburger For Sale, even though the component counts differ, but Game of Thrones: Westeros Intrigue is listed as a separate game than Penguin even though they're arguably more similar than the two For Sales. I'll accept that we're inconsistent — and will stay that way, as I noted in a February 2014 BGGN post — but I also apologize for the confusion. We do what we can.

That said, sometimes multiple versions of a game are announced at the same time, say, a German version from Hans im Glück and an English one from Z-Man Games. That's where the "Clone This" link comes in. You can first add whatever information is the same for both versions of the game (box size, year of release, artist, etc.), then click "Clone This" to create a second version listing with all the info that you've already entered, then you can finish off the version listings with the unique information for each version (publisher, language, release date, etc.) "Add Another" works similarly, but copies none of the information that you've entered.

17. Version nickname: We have guidelines for how to name versions (and do many other things), but nicknames tend to be all over the place.

In general, we prefer a format of "(language) edition" or "(language)/(second language) edition" or (when more than two languages are involved) "(abbreviated language)/(abbreviated language)/(abbreviated language) edition", e.g. "EN/FR/GE edition", but many other combinations exist, so I'll refer you to the linked version guidelines, which I need to clean up and revise yet again.

18. & 19. Version publisher and Version artist: Search for and click on the appropriate names for these fields based on whatever version you are currently entering.

20. Year published: This field is meant to be the year in which this version of the game can be acquired by someone not involved with its creation, whether from the publisher directly, a print-and-play copy through the designer's website (in which case this is a "Print-and-play edition"), at a convention, or through a retail outlet. The "year published" field might not match the "year released" field as sometimes games are available to people prior to them being officially released through retail outlets. This is okay; the version info records the first time this particular version could be acquired, whereas the game's "year released" field records the publisher's official street date, assuming one is given.

21. Product code: Most publishers use a code — a series of numbers or letters or combination of both — to designate each title they release. They do this because manufacturers, distributors and retailers want to use standardized codes to prefer to product instead of names that sometimes have to be parsed to determine exactly what one is talking about. Do you mean Risk: The Lord of the Rings or Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition? Which chapter pack for A Game of Thrones: The Card Game did a customer order: A Time of Trials or A Time for Wolves?

22. Dimensions: Some people like to know this information, especially if they plan to ship the game or have someone else ship it to them. How much will will USPS soak me for? We have a few preset sizes that are commonly used by publishers, but if you have the exact dimensions feel free to enter them, with the largest dimension as the length, the next largest as the width, and the smallest dimension being the depth. Yes, one box might have a portrait view and another a landscape view, but (1) you can see how the art looks from the box cover image and (2) if you consistently list dimensions from large to small, you can more easily imagine how one box size compares to another.

Additionally, note that the default for this field is inches. To submit lengths in centimeters, choose this option from the pulldown menu.

23. Weight: Not sure what to say here. Some folks want to know this stat so that they can build their bookshelves accordingly or plan mailing costs to the dime. Note that the default weight is pounds; use the pulldown menu to choose kilograms.

24. Languages: Click on the languages to match the rules to be included in the game. Don't see the language you need? Include a note to the admin with your suggestion. We've added Bulgarian, Vietnamese, Esperanto, and many other languages to the database to accommodate game submissions.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

25. Release date: The idea behind the release date is that we want to list the date when this game was or will be first available to the public at large and not available to a select few who receive a game via Kickstarter show up at a convention months before the game is available to everyone else. Yes, Five Tribes debuted at Gen Con 2014, but does the availability of two hundred copies count as a release? Not in our eyes, which is why we list the release date as September 2014.

For the release date, if you have only the year, use the pulldown menu to put in the proper year; if you know the month as well, use that pulldown menu; if you know the precise day, add that detail, too. If instead you know only a range of months — say, "Jul/Aug 2015" — or the quarter — e.g., "Q3 2015" — that a game is due out, then use the "custom override" box and put that date information in place.

One thing you shouldn't do — and I'm surprised that publishers still do this — is use a season in the release date, such as "Spring 2020". For me, that term means sometime between late March and late June 2020; for someone in the southern hemisphere, however, that term means late September to late December 2020 — which is probably not what the publisher had in mind. If I've learned one thing in the fourteen years that I've been doing this, it's that if a gamer knows of a game that sounds interesting, that gamer will often make an effort to acquire, no matter where that game originates. Thus, publishers should make clear to all of their potential customers — that is, everyone on Earth — when their games will be available, and that means avoiding release dates based on seasons.

26. Release comment: Use this section to note extra details about a game's release, such as "Debuting at Gen Con 2015" or "Releasing in Europe in Aug 2015 & in North America in Oct 2015", to help other users know when they might be able to play the game in question or get their hands on it.

27. Release status: Is a game available to the public at large? If so, it's "released"; if not, it's "unreleased". A game sold via Kickstarter or at a convention is not considered released unless the game won't have a retail release.

28. Pre-order type: Typically this section is for a publisher that is running a crowdfunding campaign or taking pre-orders through its own website prior to a game's release. If someone completes this field and the next three pre-order fields, then a pre-order link will show in the "Official Links" section below the game's description; if one of these fields is left incomplete, then no such link will appear.

29. Pre-order URL: This is the URL of the crowdfunding project or the publisher's website where pre-orders are being taken. (We treat crowdfunding projects the same as pre-orders because from our point of view they function the same way: You pay money in advance of the game being available with the expectation of receiving the game at a later date.)

30. Pre-order start date and Pre-order end date: As I just mentioned, both of these fields need to be completed — all six pulldown menus — in order for the pre-order link to appear on the game page itself. No, six pulldown menus is not ideal, but that's what we have.

31. Note to admin: So much stuff could go in this space: URLs to an announcement on a publisher's website or a designer's Twitter feed or a retailer's game page, alternate names in different languages since you can submit only one name for the game, additional details about the release date, notes that you've submitted the designer or publisher details separately, clarification that you're the designer or publisher so you know what you're talking about, and so on.

32. Click the "Save" button. Yes, we're finally there. Click that button already.

•••

What next?

So are we done yet? Well, you're done — or at least you might be done. Once you submit something, the name of that submission will appear in one of the "item pending" queues that I linked to earlier. At some point a BGG admin will review the submission, then ask questions of you to clarify information that's unclear; approve the submission as is; skip over the submission because they have only a few minutes between other tasks and isn't clear whether they can approve this or not; add information based on what they've seen somewhere; or some combination of these.

In most cases, the game listing is approved first, then the designer/artist/publisher listings are approved later by a separate admin who has handled these things for a while and has kind of adopted these sections of the site. Once a game listing is approved, users can then submit images, files, web links, forum posts, and so on. (Here's an overview from Feb. 2019 of how to submit images, then propose them for the representative image slot on game pages and version listings.)

That listing will join more than 117,000 others in the database, and in most cases it will barely be seen again, at least by the majority of the people who use the site. For some users, though, they will carefully monitor the page, possibly even subscribing to it so that they can answer rules questions or see what reviewers have to say. Every game is somebody's baby...
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Fri Jun 5, 2020 2:31 am
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New GMT Game Round-up: Command U-Boats, Struggle for Glory, Raid Anglo-Scottish Borders, & Write the Versailles Treaty

Candice Harris
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Board Game Publisher: GMT Games
• In a May 2020 newsletter, GMT Games announced its latest P500 addition: Border Reivers: Anglo-Scottish Border Raids, 1513-1603 from designer Ed Beach. Beach is known for designing deep, immersive, historically rich, and often beasty, games such as Here I Stand and Virgin Queen, and some might also know him from his design work on the Civilization VI PC game.

Similar to Here I Stand and Virgin Queen, Borders Reivers serves players a strong dose of 16th century history, but is a faster-playing, slightly Euro-feeling game of resource competition, raids, and battle for 2-6 players. In more detail:
Quote:
For two hundred years, war waged back and forth across the border between England and Scotland. By 1482, the unfortunate town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, once the richest port town in Scotland, had changed hands thirteen times. By the time Henry VIII ascended the throne of England in 1509, the fifty-mile-wide stretch of rolling hills and stunning vistas that straddle the border had seen decades of hardship and atrocity.

Yet still the hardy families living on these frontier lands persevered. Unable to count on crops surviving until the harvest, they subsisted primarily on the livestock they could shepherd in the fields near their homesteads. When supplies ran low, raiding to steal what they needed from their neighbors was often the answer. Raids were often carefully planned operations with several border families uniting to steal livestock from a common foe in the dead of night. Cattle and sheep were the likely targets, often with hundreds of these creatures being stolen in a single raid. The reiver's goal was to herd their quarry to safety before the retaliatory "hot trod" pursuit could catch up and force an engagement.

Board Game: Border Reivers

To combat this constant hostility, England and Scotland established the system of March Law. Each nation divided its border lands into an East, Middle, and West March with each of these six territories administered by a Warden responsible for keeping the peace. The Wardens were drawn from the most powerful families on the borders, clans of great renown that could put upwards of a thousand men in the saddle in times of need. The March Law would have succeeded, too, but for the fact that these same great families were usually the ones best equipped and most inclined to raid their neighbors.

In Border Reivers, each player rules over one of the Marches as leader of one of the six major riding families of the border: Grey, Fenwick, Dacre, Maxwell, Kerr, or Hume. Your goal is to increase the wealth and fame of your clan throughout the reigns of Henry and Elizabeth to end the century as the most famous border reiver of all time. Players gain VPs from successful combats, amassing large herds of livestock, and by elevating their notoriety above the other players in the regions of the map.
While we wait (anxiously, in my case) for further updates on Borders Reivers, I figured I'd mention a couple other new GMT releases available for pre-order directly from GMT and retailers:

Board Game: Twilight Struggle
• Eric mentioned Imperial Struggle in a post in December 2018, but considering that was a while ago and more importantly, it's from the design team (Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews) that brought us the acclaimed Twilight Struggle, I figured it was worth putting back on everyone's radars. Here's a brief overview of this highly anticipated two-player peace and war game:
Quote:
Imperial Struggle is a two-player game depicting the 18th-century rivalry between France and Britain. It begins in 1697, as the two realms wait warily for the King of Spain to name an heir, and ends in 1789, when a new order brought down the Bastille. The game is not merely about war; both France and Britain must build the foundations of colonial wealth, deal with the other nations of Europe, and compete for glory across the span of human endeavor.

Board Game: Imperial Struggle

Imperial Struggle covers almost one hundred years of history and four major wars, yet it remains a low-complexity game, playable in a short evening. It aims to honor its spiritual ancestor, Twilight Struggle, by pushing further in the direction of simple rules and playable systems, while maintaining global scope and historical sweep in the span of a single evening.

In peace turns, players build their economic interests and alliances, and take advantage of historical events represented by event cards. They must choose their investments wisely, but also with an eye to denying these opportunities to their opponent. In war turns, each theater can bring great rewards of conquest and prestige, but territorial gains can disappear at the treaty table. At the end of the century, will the British rule an empire on which the sun never sets? Or will France light the way for the world, as the superpower of the Sun King's dreams or the republic of Lafayette's?
In 2018, Ananda Gupta posted an excellent article that sheds light on the similarities and differences between Imperial Struggle and its "older cousin" Twilight Struggle which has me pretty hyped to play it.

Geoff Engelstein and Mark Herman's Versailles 1919 is a political, negotiation game in which 1-4 players gain influence to contribute to writing the Versailles Treaty. While thematically reminiscent of Herman's World War II classic game Churchill, Versailles 1919 is lighter and very different mechanically, sitting in a sweet spot that eurogamers and wargamers alike will probably dig. Here's the gist of it as described by the publisher:
Quote:
On November 11, 1918 an armistice halted the killing field that was The War to End All Wars. To make peace, Woodrow Wilson (United States), David Lloyd George (United Kingdom), and Vittorio Orlando (Italy) were hosted by President George Clemenceau (France) in Paris, and sat down to write what would become the Versailles Treaty. The treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, after six months of acrimonious debate and bargaining between the great powers.

Versailles 1919 allows you to experience this piece of history as one of the four leaders with a national agenda that must be satisfied. As one of the Big Four, you sit in a conference room gaining influence on the issues present in the room. Hovering in the waiting room sit other issues and personages who are waiting their turn to make their case to meet regional aspirations such as self-determination. Will you support Ho Chi Minh's attempt to free Vietnam from French colonialism? Help Prince Feisal establish a new nation in Mesopotamia or Chaim Weitzman create a Zionist state? Work with TE Lawrence to reduce unrest in the Middle East or with Ataturk in Anatolia?

Board Game: Versailles 1919

As France, you are concerned with containing future German aggression while aligning with the British on reparations to pay for the destruction of the war. The British, however, would like to see Germany restored as a trading partner while preserving their empire against the global aspiration for self-determination. Italy wants territorial concessions from the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Lurking in the background is the threat of Bolshevism. Towering above it all is President Woodrow Wilson with his fourteen points that set global expectations soaring, ultimately ending in disappointment when the U.S. does not join the League of Nations.

Versailles 1919 introduces a new card-bidding mechanism in which you use your influence to settle issues aligned with your agenda while keeping domestic constituents in support of your actions. You need to balance the need to demobilize your military forces while simultaneously keeping regional unrest under control. All of these decisions are set against the backdrop of regional crises and uprisings. The player who writes more of the treaty prevails in this contest of wills and national agendas. Can you save the world from the rise of nationalism? Can you make a better world while satisfying your domestic electorate? Play Versailles 1919 and relive making the flawed peace that was the Treaty of Versailles.
Board Game: The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43
• For the solo gamers out there who love a good challenge, be sure to check out The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-45, which is Gregory M. Smith's sequel to The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43. Similar to The Hunters, The Hunted also includes rules for two players. Here's an overview of what you can expect:
Quote:
The Hunted is a solitaire tactical level game placing you in command of a German U-Boat during WWII. This game picks up the action where The Hunters left off, with you commanding one of many U-Boat models available starting in 1943 and looking to successfully complete U-Boat operations until the end of the war. Not only is this a standalone game, but fans of The Hunters will enjoy having the capability to easily combine both games to span all of WWII and experience the career of a U-Boat commander from 1939 until 1945.

Board Game: The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-45

While your mission is to destroy as much Allied shipping and as many capital ships as possible, players will find it extremely challenging to "go the distance" and survive the entire war. The second half of the war has not been sugar coated; the brutal aspects facing U-boat commanders in the final phases of the war make surviving your attack difficult at best. True to history, your challenge is to accomplish what only a few could achieve — to make it to the conclusion, as happened historically.

The Hunted is purposely designed to deliver a brisk, yet intensive gaming experience that forces many decisions upon you as you take command among the major German U-Boat models in service during WWII, and try to survive until the end of the war. All major U-Boat models are accounted for, with every level of detail, including period of service, armaments, crew make-up, damage capacity, and more. Fans of The Hunters will enjoy the same nail-biting game system, but fraught with many more challenges to withstand the advances the Allies have made in anti-submarine warfare. If you ultimately survive until 1945, you will surrender at port, having done your part on the front lines.

As U-Boat commander, you will be confronting many decisions during your patrol. To begin with, eleven German U-Boat models are profiled and available for you to choose from. Patrol zones reflect the period during the war at sea and will shift as the war progresses. All stages of the U-Boat campaign are represented; missions become increasingly more difficult as your adversary makes advances in anti-submarine warfare.
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Thu May 28, 2020 1:00 pm
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Creating Translations for Imported Games

James Nathan
United States
Cincinnati
Ohio
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Microbadge: I attended T5Microbadge: I love trick-taking gamesMicrobadge: Cincinnati OH, January 2020
(In which I mostly talk about what I do to cobble together English language translations for Japanese games when I don't speak, read, or write any Japanese.)

This portrait of Yayoi Kusama hangs in the stairwell at my house. It's a cheaply framed page ripped from a magazine, and the only photo in my house that's not of a friend or a family member. (That seems like a weird thing to say, but I never understood that schtick of having pictures of Elvis or Rod Stewart above the fireplace, so it seemed like maybe I should explain. She's my Elvis.)

From gallery of xitoliv

It's there because of those polka dots in the background. Her shawl, too. It's the repetitive action of creating those dots. Of making those...tassels. There was a time when I made a lot of pottery, and I had become infested with the same polka dot virus that got to Yayoi.

From gallery of xitoliv
I don't do well attempting to meditate or staying focused in yoga, but there was a time when I had polka dots. I'd spend my afternoons and my evenings and sometimes my mornings or my late nights with an eye dropper in one hand and a pot in the other. Dip, squeeze, squeeze, rotate, squeeze, dip.

There was an intoxicating meditative solace to be found in the mindless repetition.

I worked at five or so different studios, and when switching one time, I gave myself a variation of an assignment my mentor at a previous studio had done: Make two hundred tea bowls. Don't make anything else. Don't get distracted. Me being me, I also didn't tell anyone what I was doing, so I also had to brush off their encouragement that I could...do something else. It was a time of growth: doing away with inefficiencies in my processes and techniques; gaining flexibility in what I was working with.

There was an intoxicating meditative solace to be found in the mindless repetition.

In the first half below, I'm going to talk about ways for someone else to do, or have done, the translation you're looking for. In the second, I'm going to discuss what happens when it falls to you, and the answer for me is going to involve something something solace in the process.

Have Somebody Else Do the Leg Work

Double check that someone else hasn't already made a translation. Twice with games that were released at the 2018 Fall Tokyo Game Market event, I was nearly complete with a difficult translation when the publisher released English rules. English translations usually list the translator, so now I ask one friend which rules he has been tasked to translate before I start so that we're not redoubling our efforts.

Board Game: ペーターと2匹の牧羊犬 (Peter's Two Sheep Dogs)
For Peter's Two Sheep Dogs, Kevin used a method I'll talk about momentarily to get a workable translation, but later it turned out that the publisher had a translation that they had forgotten to share, so it's also worth asking them directly — which usually means on Twitter, but Japanese rules typically include contact information at the end, though, again, usually that's a Twitter handle, but sometimes there's an e-mail address. (When Game Market releases do include English rules, these rules have often been printed at home or are given as a handout along with the game and not packaged within as time constraints may have prevented their inclusion at the time of release. A game not including English rules does not mean they aren't being worked on for a later release.) I double-check the game's Game Market page to ensure that English rules aren't there either.

There is a subreddit (a specific forum on the Reddit website) where you can get some free translations. (I'm not going to discuss paid translations as it's likely to cost several hundred dollars at minimum, so we're just moving on.) Here's an example where my friend Jason got a fairly lengthy translation, and this is the method Kevin used for Peter's Two Sheep Dogs. I try not to abuse this method, and it isn't always perfect. Sometimes I use it more to square up some nuance I'm struggling with rather than using it as a first pass, but the price is right, and usually a response can be received overnight. Post it one evening, and wake up to a translation! (This also works in the BGG Japan forum, as demonstrated here.)

Now It's Your Turn

There will come a time when it's down to you and Google Translate, and there's no way around that. (Well, learning Japanese, but for our purposes, I'm assuming that's off the table.)

There are a few quirks to the process which we'll discuss in a moment, but you need to start with the best input you can. What format are the JP rules available in? My preferences are:

(1) PDF where I can select the text to copy and paste
(2) Physical copy of the rules
(3) PDF where I cannot select the text to copy and paste
(4) Image of the rules (.jpg, .png, etc.)
(5) PDF where I can select the text to copy and paste, but it pastes as an endless string of unrenderable boxes (⎕)

In June 2019, my friend Yuto shared some musings on what Japanese designers and publishers should consider regarding the availability of EN language rules for their games. In discussing the topic with my friend Rand Lemley and I beforehand, Yuto was surprised about our valuation of being able to copy and paste the text. As you'll see below, having the correct text is often one of the key stumbling blocks to an understanding of the rules. I have access to hardware that allows me to scan in physical rules at a good resolution and software that can OCR the scanned document (a process by which the program searches the PDF for JP text and renders it selectable so that I can copy and paste.) However, this procedure is inevitably filled with quirks, especially when it comes to smaller-sized fonts, expressive fonts, columns, and gameplay examples.

This is a good time in your process to again check on Twitter, Game Market, and any publisher website for a copy of the rules. Before, we were looking for EN rules, but this time you want JP. There may be an image of the rules on Game Market, but maybe a PDF awaits on the publisher's website. Sometimes, rather than being in a document, the full text of the rules is just under your nose on some website, in the case of something like Fraction Poker, or on the Game Market site, in the case of Übergang des Barocks.

The first thing to know about doing MT (machine translation) of JP rules is to remove the "hard returns". Here's an example from 名人伝 (The Legend of the Greatest Master). A selectable PDF of the rules is available, and here's what a strict copy-and-paste portion of the set-up rules translates as:

From gallery of xitoliv

I can't make heads or tails of that. However, there is a hidden character at the end of each of the JP lines which when removed looks like this, and leads to a much clearer translation.

From gallery of xitoliv

In this trick-taking game, one card (the "Arrow" card) shuffled into the deck determines the start player. The start player reveals that they have it, but to ensure equal hand sizes, the other players randomly discard a card (and have some asymmetric knowledge about the available cards).

Be careful with removing these hard returns as sometimes the JP side may appear as if none remain, but the EN side shows that they are present, as in this example:

From gallery of xitoliv

As I said above, sometimes you need to OCR the rules and there are inevitably quirks. Here is a passage from the FINAL BURGER -LAST ORDER- rules, and how it pastes, in an extreme example:

From gallery of xitoliv

From gallery of xitoliv

Yikes. That won't do at all. This passage, and frankly several large portions of these rules, are difficult to make out, both in the scan and in the physical copy. This is an egregious example to stress that you should proofread what pastes into your MT software. Be aware that many JP characters may appear similar, but are not. つ and っ, for instance. Is the character below 様 or 樣?

From gallery of xitoliv
Even when the OCR is clearer, you'll need to scan the text to make sure that it jibes with your source material. Columns, examples, and image captions can get in the way as the software often takes a line from column A and a line from column B, then splices them.

One of the hardest of these to deal with is rules that use, well...this is where we need to talk about Japan's three writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. For our purposes today, kanji are the more visually complex characters borrowed from Chinese (and it continues to astonish me that each rule set includes several new characters I've never needed to draw before). Some rules use a system called "furigana", in which a line of hiragana characters is placed above the kanji. It looks like this, in an example from the Fraction Poker rules:

From gallery of xitoliv

The hiragana characters from the line above the main text show how to pronounce the kanji characters below them. For your translation purposes, you can ignore the hiragana line, but it will make your copy and paste more difficult.

Recently, I've been exploring an alternate OCR method and having some better results. Using the "Scan" option of the Google Translate app, your phone will take a photo; the app will search for text in the selected language, then you highlight with your finger the text you'd like to translate.

From gallery of xitoliv

As with everything else I'm talking about, this method isn't without its quirks. Specifically, it still has some of the hard return issues; at other times, it may be difficult to select only the passage in which you are interested. The oddest thing it does is sometimes transpose pieces of what you've selected in ways that I haven't yet been able to pin down the cause for. (As a result of the transposition and inevitable OCR hiccups, even when I use this method, I copy and paste the Japanese text into the document I'm working on the translation for so that I can deal with corrections on a computer.)

When OCR fails you — not if, but when — you'll need to know efficient ways to input JP characters. Google Translate offers two ways to do this: one in the desktop interface, and one on mobile. I suppose both are at some point the same, but for our purposes they have key differences. Highlighted in the image below is the button you want for the desktop version.

From gallery of xitoliv

This pencil button allows you to draw characters with your mouse, then Google will autosuggest the character you are trying to input. Here's an example of when it works — and I suppose that means you know what is going to follow.

From gallery of xitoliv

Other times, the result you want either isn't there or appears not to be there.

From gallery of xitoliv

In this case, though, your result is there. Here's another example: No matter how many times you draw it, the "L" shape doesn't seem to be in the options.

From gallery of xitoliv

Though again, your result is there. The trick is the style of font the character is being displayed in. If I understand correctly, in the first example, I've drawn the character in the "ming" style that is used by the rules, but Google is rendering my options in the "gothic" style. In the second example, Google has rendered the kanji character in Chinese rather than the Japanese version that would be expected. The first row below shows the same character in two fonts, as does the second row.

From gallery of xitoliv

(I typically see those characters in rules as I drew them above: り in the ming style, and 直 in the Japanese version.)

Those two characters seem to be fairly common and are the only ones I routinely come across where I need to know that the suggested characters are correct, even when they don't appear as such. (You can see more examples of this "L" shape variation and its usage here. h/t Saigo.)

(If you found this fascinating, I recommend checking out what happens to the Cyrillic alphabet in italics, notably "Т".)

I'm about to discuss the differences between drawing the translations by mouse through the desktop interface and drawing them by hand through the mobile interface, but first, a note on these two characters on mobile.

From gallery of xitoliv

The mobile Google Translate interface does render り in the same ming style as the typical ruleset.

One thing you may notice about the mobile interface above is that you cannot see what I've drawn. The desktop interface waits for your input before deciding upon an interpretation, so take your time. The mobile interface, on the other hand, immediately proceeds with its best guess if you pause for too long. At first, I hated this, but now I love it. Drawing with the mouse can be difficult; for me, it is much easier to reproduce the characters by hand. Some of them are becoming familiar enough (though I still don't know what they mean) that I can draw them with my finger rather quickly. The mobile interface helps you out here also as you can enter several characters at once (as many as you can fit on the screen), and it will typically convert them flawlessly, though it still gives you options from which to choose.

From gallery of xitoliv

One of the drawbacks of the mobile interface is that, well, the results are on my phone. I find it beneficial to have the results in a document so that I have it for prosperity, can combine with other portions that I have been able to copy and paste from an OCR document, or can input into different MT software. (To do this, I usually copy and paste from the mobile app to a Google Doc.) The benefit of the mobile app is that it has a nice memory of what I have drawn; for instance, I was at a coffee shop yesterday working on the translation for 3番目に強いもぐら (Third Strongest Mole), and the app will let me bring up any of the passages I drew yesterday.

From gallery of xitoliv

Just as you need to learn when two characters are the same, but appear different, Google will give you translations that are a puzzle the first time you see them, but will become secondhand in time: references to a "mountain" mean a deck of cards; the "parent" is the lead player.

You may find yourself in a position where OCR isn't going to work or is sufficiently unreliable that you're faced with entering all of the rules by hand. Take this page of the GORiATE rules, for instance.

From gallery of xitoliv

It seems like a simple card game, but that's page 1 of 4. This is where the intro comes back around: For me, there's an intoxicating meditative solace to be found in the mindless repetition of drawing the characters. It's also addictive. I don't know the language, so the characters become only symbols. The theme paragraph usually goes okay, but the components and set-up are smooth sailing. Many of the rules I translate are trick-taking games, so much of the gameplay is hanging on a familiar armature. That leaves only the scoring, then we're out of here.

It's like squeezing those dots onto the pots. Draw this character. Draw another. Draw another. Draw another. Soon, the sentence is finished, and you see what it means. Many of the characters are becoming second nature, though I know what almost none of them mean — I'm vaguely becoming familiar with the characters for "card" and "points" — and this makes the process more relaxing.

(I'll note here that one thing I'm still exploring is using AWS [Amazon Web Services] as a translation tool. It is free for low volumes, though seems to require a different Amazon account than the one with which you shop. I haven't yet found the translations to be notably better, but it does have the ability to import a custom XML file where I could pre-define deck and lead player.)

It's work. You have to put in the work, but I love seeing the results! "Just one more sentence..." Maybe I want to see how it plays. Maybe I'm looking for context clues to understand the previous sentence. Keep drawing characters whose meaning you don't know. Just keep drawing.

There's an intoxicating meditative solace to be found in the mindless repetition.

Anyway, after a first pass, a few nuances will need addressing, and we have a couple of approaches for this. We can try an alternate MT service, for instance. Take this passage on the turn order from 3番目に強いもぐら (Third Strongest Mole):
Quote:
The next player to the right of the third player
will be the starting player so that the third
player to the meeting place will be the third
player today. The next start-up ear next to the
player on the right side is the next start-up
so that the third player who will be third in
the game will be placed third.
Ouch. Step one, proofread the JP characters to make sure I haven't mistaken a つ for a っ. (In the above passage, I did accidentally accept Google's interpretation of し when I meant レ, but the revised result isn't much clearer:
Quote:
The next player to the right of the third player
will be the starting player so that the third
player to the meeting place will be the third
player today. The next player to the right next
to the third player will be the next start player
so that the third player who will be in third place
will be the third player by comparison.
The game is themed around coming in third, so I suppose it is saying that the third person to arrive to play the game today should go third in the first trick, but I could be more confident, and I certainly don't know who leads the second trick. Let's ask Yandex's translation service:
Quote:
Just as the 3rd player who came to the meeting
point today is the 3rd player, next to the 3rd
player is the starting player. Next to the 3rd
player to the right side of the 3rd player
becomes the next start player, so that the 3rd
player to the 3rd place to the next player to
the second place to the left.
...that...uh, doesn't clarify things. (See, you thought you knew where that example was going.) Luckily, rules often have redundant portions. This passage about turn order has been from the section about the start player for the first round. If we move to the section about who leads the next trick from the rules for resolving a trick, Yandex gives us:
Quote:
The starting player (the player next to the
player on the right side of the 3rd player)...
Ah, I see. The start player for the next trick is determined such that the player who was thirrd in the previous trick's rankings is now third in turn order. In hindsight, I can see that in the earlier outputs.

Sometimes, I try to watch a video. For ジャンキー (Junkie), I was having trouble determining how the scoring works. The game has two suits — milk chocolate and white chocolate — and I knew that the scoring involved the difference of the two chocolates that a player had collected, but in what manner? Sum their values and subtract? So I watched this video and tried to follow along with the scoring:


That didn't work. Then I got out my copy of the game and moved the cards accordingly and realized that the score is the absolute value of the difference of the number of cards collected of the two suits.

I'm also grateful for the support of publishers and designers in helping get through the finer points of the translations. Across the board, they have been very supportive in offering their assistance. I usually approach them only with specific questions, asking my question in both English and Japanese, and trying to reference specific elements from the rules. Their English knowledge varies (though it's almost always more than my Japanese), but here's an example where the designer ショータ (SHOTA) couldn't explain my questions in text, but drew, colored, and scanned illustrated examples to touch on the points about which I was unclear. It was perfect.

From gallery of xitoliv

When I'm finished, I share a link to a Google Drive PDF of my text with the designer/publisher. Google Drive lets you manage "versions" of PDFs, so if I need to update something later, I can do so, then the link I've provided will update as well. I never know whether my efforts will be helpful or not, but they never know whether making English rules up front will be helpful or not. I do it as an act of goodwill, and it seems to be appreciated on their end.

At the extreme end is a ruleset that I'm working on getting into decent OCR shape for a friend. The scan of the rules looks like this:

From gallery of xitoliv

The text of the rules is cyan on white, and it includes not only furigana, but English-language notes from a previous owner. In this case, Rand had the idea of using photo-editing software to clean up the scan first. This one is a work in progress, but I've erased the hand-written EN and furigana, and I've darkened the main text so that it looks like this:

From gallery of xitoliv

Much clearer. Not the cleanest, but it is a quite legible font. I'm still working on getting it close to this state but without some of the fuzzy artifacts around the characters.

I did some work with cleaning up around the characters and inverting as the letters seemed clearer, but my OCR resources were not fond of the inverted image:

From gallery of xitoliv

As usual, the situation is developing.

Other Resources

From what I know, a central list of which titles folks are working on translating doesn't exist. If such a list were out there, this is where I'd tell you about it. I share any rulesets I've made and am sufficiently confident in to BGG, but sometimes I keep them to myself if I've done 90% of the work to determine whether the game is something I want to purchase, but then decide not to.

There is a 2015 GeekList from Joe Huber for folks to list JP titles where they are looking for EN translations, though now I believe the community is using Nathan T's 2017 GeekList for adding new such titles. This GeekList can serve as a sort of central resource through which you can be notified when a new translation is available. (I'll also mention that Nathan T keeps a list of the ones he is working on in his BGG profile.)

As for me, I'm working on at some stage:

ゴリアテ (GORiATE)
三ツ星ショコラティエ (Apprentice's Journey to a Three-Star Chocolatier)
• トリテセット1 (Trick Taking Set 1) (るりるり)
• トリテセット2 (Trick Taking Set 2) (るりるり)
• トリテセット5 (Trick Taking Set 5) (るりるり)
• Trick Taking Party 2019 Finalists (TBA)
巨獣大進撃 (Tokyo Oneway)
カエサルは賽を投げない (Caesar Does Not Throw Dice)
Coconut Empire (Thai)

James Nathanより

(Adapted from my June 2019 article on OpinionatedGamers.com)
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Mon Apr 6, 2020 1:00 pm
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Come Tour the Deutsches Spielearchiv in Nürnberg, Home to 30,000 Games

W. Eric Martin
United States
Apex
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
During the Spielwarenmesse 2020 trade fair in late January and early February, Lincoln Damerst and I spent a few hours away from the Messe to tour the Deutsches Spielearchiv in Nürnberg, Germany, a museum filled with more than 30,000 games that is accessible primarily for research purposes.

The museum is not normally open to the public, but during Spielwarenmesse 2019, it conducted a mini-tour on the Monday following the trade fair, and Lincoln and I joined that tour despite neither of us speaking German beyond the bare minimum, e.g. "Sind zwei Halbbrüder einen Bruder?", a helpful phrase that Duolingo has taught me. Despite catching only a few words of the tour guide, we were blown away by what we saw, so ahead of Spielwarenmesse 2020, I contacted the museum to see whether they would be interested in us filming a tour so that the public can get a sense of why the museum exists, what it holds, and what its plans are for the future.

I'm not sure how well we answered those questions. I wasn't even sure what to ask, so I stumbled through questions as well as I could, mostly overcome by a desire to drop the mic and start rummaging through everything that we saw. For more on the museum, check out this February 2020 post, which also includes many pics that I shot when I could stop gawking for a few minutes.

We were joined on the tour by designer Brian Yu from Mattel, who had ditched work at the show to view this otherwise unviewable museum, and he helped with the filming by manning a 360º camera as we moved from floor to floor and aisle to aisle. Thanks to Lincoln for not dropping the camera to paw at games, and huge thanks to Derek Porter for editing the footage into this video:

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Wed Apr 1, 2020 5:43 pm
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