The Tyranny of Small Decisions

It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...

Archive for Miscellaneous Ranting

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Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Hmmm… I seem to have missed a few days, haven’t I? It’s been a busy week. And I while some people resort to extreme measures like having a new child in order to take some time away from doing a daily blog (congrats Alex!), I’m not nearly organised enough to plan my time off 9 months ahead

Anyway… what do I need to catch up on? Hmmm… Obsession! Let’s start there

From gallery of MrShep


We had our 5th play last weekend … and we finally took the leap to playing with the Upstairs Downstairs expansion. And yes … just like the comments below my previous Obsession posts have stated… this massively improves the game. Aside from the luck mitigation, it seems like you have a far higher proportion of “big play” turns with the Upstairs Downstairs servants in the mix, and the change brought about by a hire action being added to the passing phase makes everything flow that little bit better. Good changes.

It does feel like a bit of a “Patch” release though. Especially if you consider the expansion elements which were back-ported into the second edition of the base game. And as such, some of the modifications feel a little bit inelegant … perhaps most exemplified by the fact that the “Useful Man” worker has 5 different, not-entirely-intuitive uses, which have you repeatedly reaching for the player aid card just to remember the swiss-army-knife array of functional tweaks and bodges that he gives you access to.

From gallery of MrShep


But, inelegant as some of the Upstairs Downstairs alterations might be… they do seem to result in a far better game.

In fact, the way that objective cards are now handled (get dealt 5 at the start of the game, discard one in round 4, draw 2 new ones in round 6, then discard one in rounds 8, 12 and 16, leaving you with 3 cards which you’re evaluated against at the end of the game) looks appallingly over-complicated and tortuous when described like that… but in practice, this flow of cards gives you a really pleasing level of control over your final scoring conditions. It’s a massive improvement on the “get dealt some objectives at the start of a game, and then pick which ones you want to pursue before you’ve got any idea how the rest of the game will unfold…” way of doing things.

So… yeah. Things are now a little bit messy in places … but the game is definitely improved, despite this messiness. To an extent where I’d say Upstairs Downstairs is pretty much an essential addition. And I think, when I teach this to my heavy-euro-loving friends, I’m going to have to throw them straight in at the deep end with the full-on version.

But I have mixed feelings about this whole business. On the one hand … yeah, I own both halves of the package, and I’ve got a pretty decent and very-uniquely-themed game now. But on the other hand … this is yet another example of a problem endemic to crowdfunded games (particularly first-timer-indie-developer-crowd-funded-games), and my inner grumpy-old-gamer feels the need to whinge about it. The designer clearly took the game as far as he could (I’m not, for one moment, doubting the fact that there was a whole load of internal testing and revision to get it to its current state) …got a pot of money to produce it from the kickstarter fairies, and then put it out into the world, without that extra layer of scrutiny + 3rd-party development that the “old” way of making games involves. And in doing so… missed a bunch of ways that the base game could’ve been that-little-bit-better from the outset. Quite a few of the 2nd edition tweaks seem to have been sourced from the fan community … and there’s some very smart, extremely solid mechanical solutions within those tweaks, from folks who very clearly know their stuff. But they’re retro-fits … and, by nature, retrofits tend to be inelegant. You can’t help but think how brilliant / more-fully-baked the base game might have been if that same level of developer input had happened prior to the initial release.

I do feel a little bit guilty about writing this… I know that Dan really engages with his player community, will almost certainly be reading these words, and that Obsession has been a very clear labour of love for him. And, to his credit … this title was way more complete than 95% of the nonsense kicked out by the kickstarter sausage machine, and he HAS gone back and polished things… raising the game up to a level where it’s way more satisfying for a heavier/more serious gamer to play. Which is awesome.

But yeah. There is much about the way that games come into existence these days which disappoints me. And this bypassing of the old publisher/developer gatekeeping step is one of them.

Anyway let me be clear: despite this whinging … Obsession is a good game, we really like playing it, and it’s definitely staying in our collection.

…and it’s not like post-release-patches-bundled-with-an-expansion ever did the likes of Jamey Stegmaier any harm, did it?

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Fri Apr 2, 2021 12:07 pm
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Musical Interlude

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Don't open the box
Take the money
Take it onto kickstarter
And spend it all, honey
On deluxe re-editions and on FOMO aggregators
And experience the genius of Content Creators

Send them victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
In the studio for us
My eyes have seen the glory of
The legend and the story of
Fake reviews and clueless hosts
Cancel culture censored posts

And I won't be watching live streams any more
I'll poke my YouTube eyes out at the door
Nail my old board games onto the Kallax shelf
Enlighten, educate and entertain myself
Listening to the sound of Content Creators



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Fri Feb 5, 2021 1:53 pm
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Through the stretch-goal meat grinder we go...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Kickstarter campaign, day 1:

Board Game: Tinners' Trail


"Oh, that does look nice, doesn't it?... there's some classy-looking wooden components there. Nice to see that they've kept those distinctive tin mine pieces from the original. Looks like a proper grown-up game for grown up players, that does. It would be an absolute pleasure to have that set up on my gaming table."

Kickstarter campaign, final day:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
From gallery of MrShep


"Fuuu...."


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Wed Feb 3, 2021 7:10 am
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Ultimate Landfill?

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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Board Game: Ultimate Railroads


Ultimate Railroads is sitting at the top of the geek hotness list at the moment. And judging from the comments section, there are mixed feelings about it. On the one hand… this is putting Russian Railroads, German Railroads, and American Railroads back into print after a long absence. Which is a good thing; scarcity was driving people to pay silly amounts for these games and expansions, and they deserve to be in print. On the other hand this “big box” will also contain a slightly controversial expansion: Asian Railroads. Controversial because this expansion won’t be available through any other channel. So if you’re a Russian Railroads fan who has obsessively collected all of the stuff, and you want this expansion too… well… your only option is to buy all of the stuff a second time.

Hmmm.

From gallery of MrShep


I’m not an obsessive Russian Railroads fan; I missed out on German Railroads first time around, and wasn't overly upset in doing so (though I would almost certainly have picked it up by now if it was still available). However — as you can see from the photo — despite my non-obsession, I am invested to the tune of nearly 2kg. That’s Russian Railroads, American Railroads, and the original promo engineers all tucked into the base game box. So it’s at least slightly annoying that if I do now decide that I want the remaining expansions, that’s 2kg of redundant consumer product which really didn’t need to exist

But will I buy it? Maybe. Because before any of this big box nonsense surfaced, Russian Railroads had nudged itself onto my “Games I should try with Mrs Shep” list.

This isn't a completely random inclusion; there’s a logic to this -- beneath the tissue-thin theming, there’s a game which (mechanically) bares at least some similarities to the roll-and-write type stuff that we like. Admittedly, without any of the actual rolling or writing … but it’s a game where you have 4 tracks that you’re simultaneously trying to advance along, and each track unlocks a whole array of potential bonuses which affect the other tracks in varied and synergistic ways … and it sort of has that cascading interactions thing which vaguely (very vaguely, mind you!) reminds me of the way that the different tracks in the Ganz Schön Clever series play into each other. Except with worker placement at the front end, instead of dice. So I think it might click with her.

...Maybe

Perhaps this is a good time to find out…

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Fri Jan 29, 2021 7:10 am
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The medium and the message

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
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There’s something interesting that I’ve noticed, ever since the great BGG front-page redesign took place. Something which has probably been the case for a long time, but didn’t really catch my attention. And it concerns this -- the “top 5” blogs listing:

From gallery of MrShep


Because unless you’re looking at the listing at the start of the week, shortly after Mike Minutillo puts up one of his kickstarter roundups … OR you’ve chanced upon a glorious moment when Steph has put out a new All the Meeples of the Rainbow post… OR you pick the ONE DAY IN A LIFETIME when Harbinger posts the 1,000th post on Everything that Sucks and some things that don’t (congratulations Harbinger!) …then there’s a pretty good chance that at least 4 out of the 5 posts which are listed there — sometimes all 5 of the posts listed there — will have been written by British authors.

Which seems a bit unusual, given the relative proportion of British BGG users to … well… pretty much every other nationality of BGG user.

But what does it mean?

Are we brits all, deep down, frustrated writers?

Or perhaps just a little bit stuck in the past?

(yeah, yeah, I know… generalisations are never healthy!)

...because another thing that I find odd about that front page, post-redesign, is those “Creator spotlights” which break up the content flow every screen or so. It’s not so much the idea of having creator spotlights on a site devoted to a hobby about board gaming … but more the way that those creator spotlights seem to be all about people who create videos about games, rather than celebrating people who … y’know… actually create the games in the first place?

In fact, this whole thing has now gone weirdly meta… BGGs latest in-house twitch show — The More Meeples the Merrier — seems to be an online show in which Timm Metivier will interview people about … making online shows about board games?

Maybe, before long, everybody will be so busy interviewing each other about their experience making content about board games, or their experiences making shows about people who make content about board games (or writing blog-based diatribes about the awfulness of content creators making content about content creator content creation) that it'll all become weirdly-circular and self-sustaining, and we’ll eventually reach a point where we're able to do away with that whole messy layer at the very bottom of the operation … i.e. having to play the board games in the first place. (I’m pretty sure that a whole bunch of content creators find that to be the most annoying and inconvenient part of the whole hobby anyway )

You know where the real value in BGG is? The database. The game rules. The assets. The game-specific forums.

Or, at least… that’s where the perceived value always used to be, for me at least. But I’m not at all sure that people like reading words as much as they used to. And to be honest, I’m not so sure that the current generation of board game players are as fussy about getting the rules right as they used to be either.

Buy it on Kickstarter. Learn it on YouTube. Watch your imaginary friends playing it on Twitch. And then sell it still-new-in-shrink on Instagram.

(I do still like writing though).

NOW GET OFF MY DAMN LAWN YOU PESKY KIDS…

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Thu Jan 14, 2021 7:10 am
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Risk and Rescue

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re about an hour deep into an involved, thinky sort of a game… and a disaster strikes, completely out of the blue, which causes the game to be abandoned?

Like, for example, the table that you’re sitting at suddenly decides to collapse. Or somebody sets their cup of tea down at slightly-the-wrong-angle and the game board is suddenly whisked away — pieces set flying — in an attempt to mitigate damage from a tidal wave of brown milky cardboard-destroying infusion?

We kind of had the digital equivalent of that during this week’s Monday night session. There we were, happily playing a 4-player session of Concordia on Table Top Simulator when — out of the blue — this happened:

From gallery of MrShep


The board completely disappeared from our screens! Gone. Vanished without trace, leaving nothing but a white void. And rendering our game somewhat difficult to complete.

A little bit of investigation revealed that whoever had built the module that we were half-way through playing seemed to have been a little bit naughty in arranging hosting of the necessary images. More specifically: they hadn’t actually arranged any hosting of the images at all, and were linking directly to a scan of the board in the BGG database!

From gallery of MrShep


...at a URI which was suddenly returning a response of "forbidden".

Oops!

I’m not sure if BGG had clamped down on this loophole (which they are perfectly within their rights to do -- it's a bit bad-mannered of folks to hijack resources like this) while we were actually half way through playing the game ...or whether they’d blocked access to this file some time ago and something had happened in the middle of our session to trigger a cache refresh or something like that. But whatever the reason… there we were; suddenly rendered board-less in the midst of a particularly tense session of trans-mediterranean trading and empire building.

ARRRRGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!

As luck would have it, I’ve done a fair bit of tinkering with Tabletop Simulator over the last few days (I’m thinking of bulding a mod for a favourite game which doesn’t have a TTS implementation yet), and this game of Concordia happened to be hosted on my computer … so with a bit of quick thinking, I managed to track down a replacement image for the board elsewhere on the web, copy it into my own TTS workshop space AND live-swap it into the session. (Hmmm… live patching broken code in-flight, with users still on the system. How many times have I had to do THAT during my day job? ) …admittedly the replacement image was a bit low-res, and the game pieces didn’t line up perfectly with the version that we’d begun the game on. But it was usable. And allowed us to play the game to completion. ‘Phew.

From gallery of MrShep


A timely reminder, however, that when you play stuff on TTS -- particularly, slightly shady, unofficial stuff -- you’re putting a whole bunch of trust in the people who provide that mod to the community to not take a shortcut and completely pull the rug from under your game an hour into proceedings

To be fair… you also trust the person who set up the trestle table at the church hall meeting to CLIP THE ***ING LEGS INTO THE RETAINING CATCHES PROPERLY, and for other folks at the table to not set their hot drinks down with the all grace and finess of a 3-year-old child. But yeah… if this had been our first experience of TTS, we would’ve probably come away from the evening with a very bad opinion of the platform.

Oh well. At least I can consider my live disaster recovery success a victory, of sorts.

(Unlike my performance in the game itself. Last place again! …I definitely don’t get on well with Concordia).

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Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:10 am
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How to have a front-page blog post.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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From gallery of MrShep


I got the most thumbs that I’ve ever had on one of my blog posts this week. Which was nice.

But, sadly, I think a large part of those thumbs have more to do with the recent changes to BGG's front page, rather than my blogging skills. I mean… it was a pretty good post and all that. But... well... let me explain...

From gallery of MrShep


I’ve noticed this happen on a few of my posts recently. Usually, when I post something, it’ll get about 50 thumbs or so in the first day — mostly thanks to the legions of really nice people who come along and read my stuff daily, and very kindly give it a thumb to spur me on (thanks to all of you who do that; it’s very much appreciated!). And then, over the next week or so, I’ll get a steady trickle of follow-up thumbs, which will slowly knock the total up a little bit further. I guess that’s maybe from people who don’t log into BGG every day, but who still drop into my posts via a subscription, or my tagging of specific games that they’re interested in, or stuff like that.

And in the old days… that would be that, and thumbs would kind of trail off and fizzle out, after a short while.

But now. Now things are different…

From gallery of MrShep


…there’s often this second frenzy of activity. A frenzy which normally kicks in at around the 70-to-80 thumb mark, in which the number of thumbs suddenly starts accelerating again. Because this is the point where your post gets picked up by the algorithm that populates the hottest 5 posts on the new BGG front page … and triggers a weird popularity feedback loop.

The most popular things get shown to more people … and therefore become even more popular. Which is, maybe, a good idea in some ways.

But a bad idea in others.

Firstly… the algorithm currently being used means that only one post per user will be featured in this list. The item that appears will be your most-thumbed post from the last 7 days.

Which is good in principle. But also means that if I write a decent post on Monday, which attracts a whole bunch of thumbs, and goes into one of these feedback loops, then that post will go on the front page and stay there for the best part of a week. But if I then write an equally good (or better!) post on Tuesday … that one won’t appear on the front page, and won’t get that feedback loop effect.

This can make for some really odd situations … like, last week, I did a really quick, cheap-and-nasty post where I essentially said “I’ve got a copy of Faiyum, I’ll tell you all about it soon, but here’s a picture to tide you over” … and THAT post hit the front page, and started accumulating masses of thumbs. Somewhat ironically, this blocked my actual coverage of the game (which I’d spent an awful lot more time writing) from appearing there at all. It was only after I’d performed some further shenanigans — to deliberately steer readers from the less-good article to the better article — that it finally got its moment in the spotlight.

And secondly… this effect is completely burying contributions from new bloggers. Obtaining the critical mass necessary to get front-page exposure for your posts is likely going to be harder than ever.

But hey… I’ve been doing this BGG blogging malarky for far too long now; I’m not massively bothered if my stuff falls from visibility — it’ll make it way easier to sneak off and start some new project while nobody is looking. But for those brave souls who are just setting out on this journey … those who are still interested in scraping their way from the gutter to the front page… I humbly present:

MrShep’s top tips for grabbing enough thumbs to hit the feedback loop tipping point:

(1) Tag wingspan in your posts.

But only do that if you’re going to say something nice about the game. Wingspan has one of the most devoted sets of fans of any game on BGG. If you say something positive about Wingspan, you will be showered in thumbs. If you say something neutral about the game, you will still be showered in thumbs. If you just take a photograph of a bunch of random s***e that you found in your kitchen that morning because you couldn’t be arsed to write a proper blog that day, but still somehow managed to give it a Wingspan theme… ; YOU WILL GET THUMBS. Wingspan is the game that keeps giving. (If by giving, you mean GIVING YOU THUMBS!)

(But, if you’re ever going to say something BAD about wingspan, DO NOT TAG WINGSPAN. Or pop your blinkers on and don’t read any comments posted to your blog for the next week or so. The Wingspan fans give generously, but the Wingspan fans can also take away!)

(2) Already done too much Wingspan tagging this month? No problem! Post a picture of a cat instead. Preferably in (or near) a game box. Sadly, Molly Stinker Pestface Shepherd the First is no longer with us, so I’ve not had a good opportunity to do this for a while.


From gallery of MrShep

R.I.P Molly Stinker Pestface Shepherd the First. You are missed.


I even remember one time … a time spoken of in hushed tones amongst the BBG blogging community … when up-and-coming BGG blogger CarolineBlack (aka The Dyslexic Gamer) went FULL-ON MAVERICK, and posted not only a cat-box picture… but also TAGGED WINGSPAN IN THE VERY SAME POST! Crazy times. We all thought she’d lost it — no WAY anybody could surf the popularity wave from a post like THAT! But the thumbs just rolled on in… keep your eye on The Dyslexic Gamer; I’m predicting great things for that one.

(3) Remind people to subscribe. And to thumb. I mean, it’s cheap, and it’s cheesy, and I cringe every time I do it … but sadly … it totally works. A few days back I put in a reminder to “subscribe to this blog if you want to see the follow-up to this post”, and gained TWENTY new subscribers within 24 hours. You know how long it had taken me to get the 20 subscribers prior to that? … WEEKS! That’s how long. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that It’s not immediately obvious to folks that you can subscribe to an individual BGG blog and be notified whenever a new post appears. But I bet there’s at least one person has just read that last sentence, and thought: “Hey — you can subscribe to a blog? … I should totally do that!”

(4) Be Tony Boydell. Tony Boydell is a GIANT amongst BGG bloggers. A thumb-pulling, content-generating, lego-building, super-sweary TITAN of a blogger. But sadly, only one person is allowed to be Tony Boydell at a time. And Tony Boydell is currently busy being him.

(5) Post a big long list of upcoming kickstarters, and tag each and every last one of them. Seriously, the kids go apes**t for that stuff! Just don’t forget to stress how amazingly excited about EACH and EVERY item on that list you are. Because remember: every nice thing you say about a kickstarter turns a tiny mote of buyers remorse into a thumb-shaped vote of all-important support for YOUR post!

(6) Never, EVER start an ongoing Kingdom Death Monster campaign where you humorously(?) inject the regular followers of your blog into starring roles of an ongoing series of narrative posts. Because every time you post an instalment, your thumbs will drop, and you'll lose at least one subscription. (But don’t worry KDM Diary Fans… Episode 58 is coming up any day now. Just as soon as those 20 new subscribers have been on board long enough to not scare away too easily…)

(7) Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Not ever. Urrrm…

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Sat Nov 21, 2020 11:35 am
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The Horror Within!

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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Yesterday, a copy of Horrified arrived. I’m blaming Nick’s blog for this acquisition … I hadn’t really heard of Horrified prior to his recent spate of posts on the game, but it seems like something that’ll be fun and thematically-appropriate to play next weekend …and, I had a bunch of Amazon credit burning a hole in my pocket. So... one thing led to another, and I slightly-spontaneously bought a copy.

Most years, we have a pretty big family gathering somewhere around Halloween … and Horrified looks a lot like the kind of game that I’ve always wished I’d had in my collection, just for those gatherings. So despite the fact that it’ll only be Mrs Shep and myself at home for Halloween THIS year… well… better late than never. I’m sure we’ll have some fun with it

From gallery of MrShep


One thing that immediately struck me — as I lifted my new acquisition it from its outer shipping carton — was the lack of shrink wrap on the game box. I’m sure I’ve read that it’s the norm for Ravensburger games to come without shrinkwrap these days, but this is my first encounter with such a title… and it did make me pause for a moment. I guess I’m still instinctively cautious about about packages coming into the house these days … but I tend to think that once the shrinkwrap is off, whatever is inside that shrinkwrap won't have been touched by human hands for a fair bit of time, and almost certainly won’t have any latent coronavirus nasties on it.

Yeah, possibly a bit mad and over-cautious, I know. But the lack of shrinkwrap did make a tiny bell of alarm ring deep within my head. Something felt wrong here.

Anyway… no matter. At least Ravensburger are doing their bit for the environment, and reducing the use of single-use plastics. Which can only be a good thing, right?

Well… yeah. Except for the fact that the box lid seemed to be attached with 4 plastic stickers. Which I promptly peeled off (with a bit of a struggle) and binned.

Still, I figure that Ravensburger probably know what they’re doing. Maybe that’s one of those easily-decomposed starch-based psuedo-plastics, and this packaging still has a low-impact environmental footprint?

…and then I get inside the box, lift out the punch-sheets and see…

From gallery of MrShep


Ah. Right. No external shrinkwrap on this game. But the components INSIDE THE FECKING BOX are all shrinkwrapped instead!

Huh?

What’s going on here? This doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as environmentally-aware as I initially thought it was

Welllll… as far as I can tell from a tiny bit of digging and research — the removal of external shrinkwrap on Ravensburger games has very little to do with environmental concerns, and everything to do with avoiding bulk returns from mass-market retailers. Apparently, with retailers like Target, if the shrinkwrap on a game is in any way torn or damaged, the distributors are contractually required to buy the stock back as an unsold return. And quite a lot of shrinkwrap gets scuffed in transit.

So Ravensburger have, basically, changed their shrinkwrapping policy to avoid those returns. And not… as initially assumed by many… to save dolphins.

Fair do's, I suppose. But I can't help feeling a little bit less-charitable about accepting a non-shrinkwrapped, potentially-covid-infected warehouse-worker-fingerprint-covered box now

(It still looks like a cracking game though… packaging horror stories aside! )

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Mon Oct 26, 2020 7:10 am
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Spiel.dodgytal

John Shepherd
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Thursday morning… I’m back at work* and the previous week’s holiday already seems like a distant memory. The project that I was expecting to be in its final week on my return has now stretched out for an extra month or so, thanks to umpteen 11th-hour emergencies and politics. Much work-related woe abounds. So, of course, my natural reaction is to pull up my calendar and figure out just how long it is until my next holiday: the long Christmas break.

At which point, I realise that Thursday is the first day of Spiel.digital — the online replacement for Essen 2020!

Perhaps I can shiftily fire that up, to help dull the pain?

Well… urm… yes. In theory I could. Of course, in practice, the spiel folks have made exactly the same arse of presenting a high-availability “virtual con” web site to an eager gaming public as pretty much every other online convention has this year, so all I get is this:

From gallery of MrShep


(…and, by pure instinct, I find myself knee deep in a javascript console, diagnosing their architectural mistakes and oversights, before reminding myself: “Mr Shep… this is not your site. Just leave it!”. )

Instead, I head over to the Lookout games web shop (i.e. the shop on their own web site — nothing to do with the main spiele.digital site) to see if they have english copies of Uwe’s new game in stock. It’s a big-box, complicated Rosenberg game with sheep farming in it. OBVIOUSLY I’m going to buy that! …and indeed, copies have appeared — just as Lookout promised on their facebook page a few days ago. I quickly snap one up, just in case this is a small, spiel-specific print-run.

And then… literally 10 minutes after I make my purchase… Lookout post a 10% discount code ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE. Arggggh!!!!

So, the start of my digital essen has mostly comprised: struggling to get in… racing to my favourite pubisher’s stall to snatch the obligatory biggest-game-that’s-been-blipping-on-my-radar… and subsequently discovering that I paid way over the odds for the very first thing that I bought.

Hmmm, actually … now that I think about it… that’s a pretty good simulation of a real-life convention experience, isn’t it?

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*by which I mean: at home, sitting in front of my laptop, at non-geographical new-normal “work”. But spiritually and mentally, I’m at work. Honest.
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Fri Oct 23, 2020 10:14 am
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Lost in Translation

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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I was reading a board gaming magazine at the weekend...

(Yes … that’s right… a proper magazine, made from dead trees and everything!)

…when I came across a review of My City. Which I read. Because, as you know, I’ve played a whole bunch of My City recently, and it’s always interesting to see how a reviewer’s opinion stacks up against your own.

And as I read the review, I came across something which concerned me a bit. A statement which made me think: hang on a minute. That’s definitely not the same My City that we played. We didn’t play it like that at all…

From gallery of MrShep

Slamming down pieces immediately, with no pause for thought?

… what??

From gallery of MrShep

Too right it would be awkward. My City — particularly during the mid-to-end campaign stretch — is a beautiful, puzzly, brain-burner of a game. 5 seconds? How could you possibly play (or enjoy!) those chapters of the game as some kind of rapid-fire, tetris-piece mashing insta-play affair?

Eww!

More importantly, how could I have missed this somewhat-critical detail when I watched the play-through videos and read the rule book??

So, obviously, I went back to the rule book, and searched for the part that instructs you to play the game in this rapid-fire, no-time-to-think manner. And pretty much all I could find which intimates such a manner of play, was this:

From gallery of MrShep


“No delay or waiting is allowed”.

Urmm…. OK… you could maybe take a super-literal interpretation of that, and turn it into “slam the pieces immediately onto your board with no pause for thought”. But… nah… I smelled a rat here.

A bad translation from the original German rules, perhaps? A quick query on the BGG forums (titled: Did we play the entire campaign incorrectly?) confirmed this to be the case. Apparently it’s just an ill-worded way of saying “everybody plays simultaneously”.

But this raises a few points…

Firstly, it makes me wonder how often a badly-worded rules translation might completely put a player off a game, because they end up playing something very different to the game that the designer intended?

I kind of suspect that most people who regularly play euro-games will — like me — have read that sentence and just kind of filtered it out as a translation oddity. Understood the intention, and played the game the correct way … rather than followed a very literal interpretation of something that doesn’t seem at all right. But somebody with a little less hobby-gaming experience? They might end up playing an entirely different game. (Or even reviewing an entirely different game!). It goes to show how important it is to get the phrasing in a rule book just right.

Secondly … I wonder just how far into the campaign the reviewer got before he wrote this review. Because I find it very hard to believe that somebody would get a long way into My City — playing it that way — without thinking… nah… hang on a minute… this can’t possibly be right, can it? — and seeking clarification. (Or… maybe he played all 24 chapters, and had a bit of a stinker of an experience throughout?).

When I see a review in a print magazine, I kind of automatically put that review on a slightly higher mental pedestal than your typical “I-played-it-once-and-now-I’m-posting-a-video” internet reviewer (though, admittedly, this might be a bias borne of reading a lot of issues of Spielbox magazine — where they very clearly do considered and well-researched reviews). But, thinking about it, I'm now not very convinced that this guy got particularly far into the game before writing about it.

And thirdly… I wonder how many people would read this review, mentally make a note along the lines of “Eww… sounds awful. Definitely not for me” …and might now avoid what is actually a pretty good game.

I’m pretty sure I would’ve fallen into that category, if I hadn’t played the game before.

Ahh… such responsibility!

Who’d be a board game reviewer?

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8 Comments
Tue Oct 6, 2020 7:10 am
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