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Links: Narrative and Exposition, Exclusive Games, and Graphic Excellence in Games

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game: Rocky Mountain Man
• Dan Thurot does excellent work in his reviews and essays on Space-Biff!, and I wanted to highlight his most recent long essay: "Talking About Games: Narrative & Exposition".

Although I'm doing an injustice to excerpt part of an article that coheres beautifully from beginning to end, I'll do so anyway to try to encourage you to start at the beginning:
So is a board game more of a board game when we're playing it? It must be. And that wholeness of feeling has everything to do with something intangible, because the rules are not physical objects contained within the game, but guidelines and actions we undertake at the prompting of the game's designers.

The same is true of narrative.

A narrative is a story, a deliberate string of events that somebody spoke about or wrote down or filmed. But it's also something we can't help but create all the time, because our brains are pattern-generating engines that filter our every experience along a conveyor belt of linear time, presented like multi-course feasts for the gluttonous protagonist we call the self. Every human suffers to varying degrees from apophenia, in which we see faces in trees or objects in clouds or signals in static. Which is why we can't help but sort things into narratives, whether we're talking about the fall of Rome or throwing a busted childhood toy into the garbage. These things are not "real". They're as imaginary as the idea that the Roman Empire had more in common with its Republican past than with its Merovingian successors. But just because they're not real doesn't mean they're not meaningful or don't approach truth. Almost the inverse, in fact. Things become meaningful because we assign them meaning.

But that's where many board games slip up. Because characters and flavor text and central struggles aren't narrative. They're exposition.
In the essay, Thurot praises Rocky Mountain Man's meaningful integration of events into the game's narrative, explains how Vast: The Crystal Caverns uses memes to convey exposition efficiently, and gets the vapors over Sleeping Gods' ability to immerse you in a plot that is more than a pile of random events.

• In late June 2021, Suzanne Sheldon of The Dice Tower posted a helpful Twitter thread about "exclusive" games that covers a lot of ground that might be unfamiliar to the general gamer. Here's the leadoff tweet:

One aspect she doesn't cover is that in some cases a mass-market retailer asks a publisher to essentially make a game for them — which means that game likely wouldn't exist at all without that first period of exclusivity. The publisher wants game X, but aimed at a younger audience, set in a different location, married with a certain IP, or at a lower price point. If the publisher can make that happen, it would (probably) be foolish to refuse that order and not put its game and brand in front of that audience.

Dealing with mass-market retailers can be frustrating and involves a lot of risks should a shipment fail to arrive by a contracted date or (worst of all) the game not sell, but the potential gains from exposure to a vast audience of game players who (generally) don't attend conventions, visit BGG, or look for suggestions on Twitter are huge.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
• The nominees for the Graf Ludo 2021 — an annual award from the annual modell-hobby-spiel fair in Leipzig, Germany that celebrates graphic design in games — have been announced. The six titles recognized for "most beautiful graphics in a family game" are:

Dive (graphics by Alexandre Bonvalot, published by Sit Down!)
Everdell (graphics by Andrew Bosley, published by Starling Games)
Lost Ruins of Arnak (graphics by Ondřej Hrdina, published by Czech Games Edition)
Monster Expedition (graphics by Dennis Lohausen, Oliver Schlemmer, and Michael Menzel, published by AMIGO)
Spicy (graphics by Jimin Kim, published by HeidelBÄR Games)
Tang Garden (graphics by Matthew Mizak, published by ThunderGryph Games)

Board Game: Dive
Board Game: Everdell
Board Game: Lost Ruins of Arnak
Board Game: Monster Expedition
Board Game: Spicy
Board Game: Tang Garden

And the five titles recognized for "most beautiful graphics in a children's game" are:

Dream Catcher (graphics by Maud Chalmel, published by Space Cow)
Forest of Lights (graphics by Rolf Vogt, published by Drei Magier Spiele)
Ghost Adventure (graphics by Yann Valéani and Jules Dubost, published by Buzzy Games)
Similo: Wild Animals (graphics by Naïade, published by Horrible Guild)
Storytailors (graphics by Irina Pechenkina and Eugene Smolenceva, published by Lifestyle Boardgames)

Board Game: Dream Catcher
Board Game: Wald der Lichter
Board Game: Ghost Adventure
Board Game: Similo
Board Game: Storytailors
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