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The Banning of Michael Barnes: A BGG Summer Musical

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Phirax's Magical Box of Hot
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Keats and Yeats are on your side, but you lose... because Wilde is on mine.
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The real story can finally be told...


PROLOGUE

March, 2007. The board game community is slowly waking from a long winter of discontent.
Frustration over the seemingly endless output of stale, lifeless board games that simply rehash
the previous year's top mechanics has led to open revolt on the streets of the board game
world. It is a time for passion, a time for love, a time for sheeples. It is a...




Note about songs: It is recommended that you watch at least part of the video preceding each
musical number so that you are familiar with the pacing and rhyme structure of the songs.
West Side Story has a unique style and swagger, sort of like The Mage Knight Board Game.
If you have the original songs in your head then the jokes will make more sense. Enjoy.



CAST OF CHARACTERS

MICHAEL BARNES — A young gamer searching for "more."
MARIA — A board game by Histogames.
LIEUTENANT ALDIE — The long arm of the law.
OFFICER SOLKO — Aldie's bumbling, comic sidekick.
AMERI-JETS — Brash and untamed, they are looking for a fight.
EURO-SHARKS — They rule the BGG streets.


You wanna fight with switchblades? Zip-guns? No! We choose... d20!


PART 1 - "WHEN YOU'RE AT, YOU'RE AT FOR LIFE!"

The opening is musical: half-danced, half-mimed, with occasional phrases of dialogue.
It is primarily a condensation of the growing rivalry between two board game gangs, the
Ameri-Jets and the Euro-Sharks. The gamers - bearded, overweight - are vital, restless,
sardonic; the Euro-Sharks are called PR's or "Puerto Ricos" for their love of the current number
one game in the rankings, the Ameri-Jets are an anthology of what is called "Ameritrash"
(or AT) because of their loyalty to flashy American games of the 1980's.

The action begins with the Ameri-Jets in possession of a forum thread: owning, enjoying,
loving their "turf." Soon a group of Euro-Sharks show up and a flame war erupts. The
mayhem that ensues is beautiful and frightening to behold; obese gamers dancing on tables as
they feint and parry their way though an exotic and deadly ballet. It looks eerily like your
average 18xx tournament.



Suddenly a newbie gamer named BaSl makes an inefficient move — he forgot that at the end
of the current phase he would have to feed his workers — and the other gamers, sensing his
vulnerability, pounce on him! Someone lands a blow, there is a terrible scream, and we
witness the horrible consequences of direct interaction in board games.



Realizing something is amiss in the board game world, Lieutenant Aldie and Officer Solko arrive
and break up the fracas. They issue warnings to both sides and tell the gamers to play nicely
together, but it is already too late. Someone was wrong on the internet and now neither side is
willing to stifle their own well-reasoned arguments in favor of the insane ramblings coming
from the other side.

The Ameritrash crew gathers together and their leader Steve Weeks announces that they are
going to rumble with the Euro-sharks tonight in the General Gaming forum. The announcement
starts another round of silly, unnecessary dancing and prompts the first big musical number
of the show.

When You're AT

When you're AT,
You're AT all the way
From your first game of Risk
To your last dyin' day.

When you're AT,
With some dice in your hand,
Gonna kick board game ass,
Now let's roll like a man!

No worker placement,
There's never cube confusion!
No spaces to rent,
for indirect intrusions:
Our games give contusions!

You know you are set
With a capital A,
Which you'll never forget
Till they cart you away.
When you're AT,
You stay... AT!



Euro rumbles require five basic resources.


When you're AT,
You get more thumbs than God,
And your board game podcast,
Is on every iPod!

When you're AT,
You're a thread hijack king.
Little boy, you're a man;
Little man, let 'em Zing!

AT has no fear,
Our cylinders are clickin'!
The Sharks'll steer clear
'Cause ev'ry Puerto Rico
'S a lousy freak-o!

Here comes AT
Like a bat out of hell-
Our games aren't free,
So we blame Tom Vasel.

Here comes AT:
Small World, step aside!
Better go Underground,
Better run, better hide.

We're drawin' the line,
So keep your sheeples hidden!
We're hangin' a sign,
Says "Agricola Forbidden!"
And we ain't kiddin'!

Here comes AT,
Yeah! An' we're gonna fight
Ev'ry last Euro-gang
On this whole Euro-site!
On the whole...
Ever-!
Mother-!
Lovin'-!
Site!



PART TWO - "MARIA"

In a deserted office, we see an earnest sandy-haired boy writing a game review. His name
is Michael Barnes and he is the most vocal member of the growing Ameritrash movement.
He has recently been on a campaign against the dominance of themeless Euro-style games but
something has happened that will change his board gaming life forever. He has read the
rulebook of a new game called Maria and as the music begins he sings a song of praise and
unabashed love that is reminiscent of your average Dice Tower review...






Maria
A review by Michael Barnes


Maria...

The most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.
Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria...

All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word:
Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria...

Maria!
I’ve just bought a game named Maria,
And suddenly the name
Will never be the same
To me.

Maria!
I’ve just played a game named Maria,
And suddenly I’ve found
How wonderful a sound
Can be!

Maria!
Say it loud and there’s music playing --
Say it soft and it’s almost like praying --
Maria...

I’ll never stop saying...

Maria.



PART THREE - "AMERITRASH"

Meanwhile, on the other side of the website a revolt is taking place. A group of feisty new
Euro games led by Maria have challenged the status quo and are demanding more exciting
themes and game play from their designers. The resulting musical extravaganza is a back-and-forth
between Maria, board game consumers, and the world's most famous Euro-game designers.




AMERITRASH

MARIA
Puerto Rico,
My heart’s devotion--
Let it sink back in the ocean.

Always the workers placing,
And the languid pacing,
And all the players spacing.

Endless captain selling,
Never players yelling.

I prefer games like Dust: Tactics,
Thinking and fun simply don't mix!


YOUNG GAMERS (chorus)
I like to be in Ameritrash,
Reviews always funny in Ameritrash,
Promos are all free in Ameritrash.

THEIR PARENTS
Plus shipping $29.50 in Ameritrash.

(There is a musical crescendo and frenzied dancing. Klaus Teuber caps off the action with a
pirouette into the arms of a large purple meeple. Maria and the designers re-take the dance floor.)


MARIA
Efficiency engines are boring,
REINER KNIZIA
Roll some dice, move a pawn, and you're scoring?

MARIA
TI:3 with seven players is so cool.
WOLFGANG KRAMER
90 minutes per turn? You're a damn fool.

(enter Fantasy Flight's marketing department and Klaus Teuber to the floor)

FANTASY FLIGHT MARKETING DEPT.(chorus)
What a blast shooting guns in Ameritrash,
Kicking ass so much fun in Ameritrash,
Talking trash when you've won in Ameritrash,

KLAUS TEUBER
"Tits and ass," I'm so done with Ameritrash.


CHA-CHA-CHA!!! SdJ winners gonna rumble!!!


MARIA
I love playing games from a big box.
STEPHAN FELD
Stupid reviews always say, "Dood, this g4me rocks!

MARIA
No more waiting on players with A.P.
UWE ROSENBERG
Endless dice rolling makes me so sleepy.

MARIA AND 3 PARTY GAMES
No theme pasted-on in Ameritrash.
SDJ WINNERS
All strategy gone in Ameritrash.

AMERITRASH GAMERS
Components come first in Ameritrash.
EURO DESIGNERS
Your eyeballs may burst in Ameritrash.

(an interlude of WHISTLING and DANCING)


Catan Robber and his crew striking a pre-dance pose.


EURO DESIGNERS(chorus)
Interaction with a shiv is Ameritrash,
All take and no give is Ameritrash,
I can no longer live with Ameritrash,

MARIA
You know Sid Meier's Civ is Ameritrash?


PART FOUR - "I FEEL PRETTY"

Michael Barnes shows up at the end of the number and he and Maria meet for the first time.
It is love at first sight. The linen finish on Maria's cards and her prodigious, uhh... playing
surface is more than Barnes can handle. They fall into each other's arms and profess eternal
love for one another. (Note: I did this with Agricola back in the day and I can tell you from
experience that love never lasts no matter how great it feels when you first experience it.
Eventually the thing you love most will become a burden and you will find yourself is sleazy
roadside motels having elicit afternoon rendezvous with younger, less cerebrally taxing games.)



Maria returns to her game store and sings to the other games about how wonderful it feels to
be in love. All the other games join her in song except for Caylus, because Caylus is a sullen,
humorless game.




I FEEL PRETTY

I feel pretty,
Oh, so pretty,
I feel pretty, and witty and gay,
And I pity
Any game who isn’t me today.

My mechanics,
Feel dynamic--
It’s titanic how dynamic I feel,
And so pretty
That I hardly can believe I’m real.

See the pretty game in that mirror there:
Who can that attractive game be?
Such a pretty deck,
Such a pretty board,
Such a pretty box,
Such a pretty me!



Friedemann tries to score by performing the "J-Lo action."

I have meeples
No, not sheeples
And the peoples are loving my rules,
And so pretty,
That the fan boys are all drooling like fools.

Reviewers have stated,
"Theme well-integrated,"
You'd have to be jaded to hate-on my theme,
And so pretty,
That you'd think I was only a dream.

(Repeat chorus)
See the pretty game in that mirror there:
Who can that attractive game be?
Such a pretty deck,
Such a pretty board,
Such a pretty box,
Such a pretty me!

I feel gallant
And well balanced --
Like my talents are balanced for him,
For I’m loved
By a pretty wonderful boy!



PART FIVE - "GEE, OFFICER SOLKO"

Things may seem swell to Maria, but the crisis is coming to a head everywhere else. The
latest crop of "mechanics first" Euro games have been called into Derk Solko's office to
explain why they are so dry and flavorless. Their attempt at an explanation will forever be
remembered as one of the silliest moments in board game history.




GEE, OFFICER SOLKO

GAME PROTOTYPE
Dear kindly Sergeant Solko,
You gotta understand,
In every shopping mall-ko
They're selling out Catan.
My publisher is greedy,
My designer is a schmuck.
Golly Moses, naturally I suck!


GAME PROTOTYPE AND EURO-GAME CHORUS
Gee, Officer Solko, we're very upset;
We never had the love that ev'ry game oughta get.
We ain't just cheap knock-offs,
We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good!


GAME PROTOTYPE
There is good!

EURO-GAME CHORUS
There is good, there is good,
There is untapped good!
Like inside, the worst of us is good!


DESIGNER (Spoken) That's a touchin' good story.

GAME PROTOTYPE: Lemme tell it to the world!

DESIGNER: Just tell it to your publisher.

EURO PROTOTYPE (Sings)
Dear publisher, your Honor,
Our budget's all been spent.
And now this cardboard horror,
Just ain't so elegant..
We needed more play testin',
But all our testers quit.
Leapin' lizards! That's why I'm such sh—!


PUBLISHER: Right!
Officer Solko, you're really a square;
This game don't need a publisher, it needs some playtesting care!
It's just a mechanic that oughta be curbed...
It's mechanically disturbed!


GAME PROTOTYPE
I'm disturbed!

EURO-GAME CHORUS
We're disturbed, we're disturbed,
We're the most disturbed,
Like we're mechanically disturbed.


PUBLISHER (Spoken) In the opinion of this company, this game is
depraved on account it ain't had a normal development cycle.


GAME PROTOTYPE: Hey, I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived.

PUBLISHER: So take him to a playtester.

GAME PROTOTYPE (Sings)
My publisher's a bastard,
My designer is a jerk.
My fans are always plastered,
Just like that cop named Derk.
My reviewer is a douche bag,
My developers are noobs.
Goodness gracious, my battle dwarves have boobs!


PLAYTESTER: Yes!
Officer Solko, you're really a schnook.
This game don't need playtesting, just a thematic hook.
The designer finished it way too quick,
Now it's thematically sick!


GAME PROTOTYPE
I am sick!

EURO-GAME CHORUS
We are sick, we are sick,
We are sick, sick, sick,
Like we're thematically sick!




PUBLISHER (Spoken) In my opinion, this game don't need a theme at all.
Pasted on theme is purely a Euro disease!

GAME PROTOTYPE: Hey, I got a Euro disease!

PLAYTESTER: So take it to a Euro designer!

GAME PROTOTYPE (Sings)
Dear kindly Wolfgang Kramer,
My theme's all out of whack.
Since you're a hall-of-famer,
Could you get me on track?
I don't just need some flavor,
I also need some "fun."
Gloryosky! Our work here's almost done!


DESIGNER: Eek!
Officer Solko, you're really a pain.
This game don't need a theme, it needs a crowd source campaign.
It ain't just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside, it's no good!


GAME PROTOTYPE
I'm no good!

EURO-GAME CHORUS
We're no good, we're no good!
We're not any good,
Like the best of us is no damn good!


PUBLISHER
The trouble is the tokens.

PLAYTESTER
The trouble is the cards.

DESIGNER
The trouble is it's broken.

PUBLISHER
The trouble is it's hard.

PLAYTESTER
The trouble is it's themeless.

DESIGNER
The trouble is the chrome.

ALL
Solko... we got... troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Solko,
We've decided on cubes,
'Cause no one wants a game with battle dwarves sporting boobs!
Gee, Officer Solko,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Solko,
Solk you!




PART SIX - "SOMEWHERE" (FINALE)

Phew, that was extremely silly. Have you ever noticed how when Derk Solko gets involved
in something, things tend to careen wildly out of control? Anyway, back to our story...

Lot's of stuff happens, blah, blah, blah... and we come to the bittersweet ending of the story.
You see, Michael Barnes was banned for life on March 13, 2007 and he and Maria would
never get to spend their life together. Maria would go on to be highly rated (thanks in no
small part to Michael's "Maria" review) and her success would make her one of the top rated
games of all time. Yet her joy would always be tinged with sadness.

(Note: I cry whenever I watch this video and imagine Barnes singing to Maria just before the
end. And yes, I watch this video two to three times per day.)





EPILOGUE

Michael Barnes would go on to become a popular game reviewer and industry commentator
and he currently writes for a website called No High Scores. Maria remains a great, if slightly
underappreciated game
. I leave you with the only surviving picture of Barnes and Maria
together in the way that I will always remember them...

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