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Subject: The Infinite Board Game Review rss

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Joe Peterson
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I've spent a lot of time playing games with a Piecepack and probably even more time making my own piecepacks. I have been searching for the "perfect" piecepack for years. So when I heard about this, I had to get it.



Unlike most game reviews, this is strictly a review of the components. The piecepack is best compared to a deck of cards. It is a set of components that you can use to play many games. Hence the name of this boxed set. If you are not familiar with the piecepack, this review is unlikely to make much sense, so go to www.piecepack.org to read up on it a little.

The tiles are a nice plastic that feels great. The backs are about perfect. The tiles are indistinguishable from each other when you take them out of the box, but they do scratch easily. After one game, two of my tiles have scratches that clearly mark them. I expect that with use, they will all be scratched up enough that they cannot be picked out from the others.



The faces look nice but, unfortunately, the faces don't meet spec and some piecepack games cannot easily be played using this set, including one of the best games that uses piecepack- Alien City. (in fact, at the time of this writing, it looks like Alien City is the only piecepack game that has had enough love to get a rank on BGG.) Here is part of the spec: faces are marked with value at center and a small suit symbol at top-left, both in color to match suit. That ability to identify a quarter of the tile with the suit is important for Alien City and as you can see from the picture above, that's not easy to do. For comparison, here is this set alongside the Blue Panther JCD piecepack.



You can see that the upper left corner of the JCD piecepack is easily marked. (I would still prefer if there was only one suit symbol, though.) And look how nice and clean the nulls and aces look in the JCD piecepack.

Here is a staged Alien City game. The real game used the Aces instead of the Nulls. The nulls work a little better… but the reverse image makes it look a little odd. I found it really hard to play on it, though.



I think that the aces and nulls are not as aesthetically appealing as the rest of the set and the aces make it too hard to play Alien City.

The coins are terrific. They are a nice size and they also have a great feel. Other than the A on the ace instead of the spiral, the coins are brilliant. I REALLY love the way they dealt with the null. I wish I had thought of that.

The pawns are nice. Fairly comparable to the wooden pawns I have for my set.

The dice are chunky and heavy and look wonderful… again, except for the null. Instead of leaving it blank, they put a O on it. It is pretty crazy how much ignoring the spec that says "Nulls are represented by the absence of a numeral or symbol" can change the feel of the entire set.

This set also comes with a book that goes over 50 games that can be played with only the piecepack set. The book is well produced (in color) and the rules I have read were well organized and beautifully done.

I think this is a beautiful set, but it still isn't perfect. It will be a hard choice on whether I use this or my homemade one (seen below alongside this set-- you can imagine the 2 Crowns is there… I have it marking something in another game.):



Neither is perfect… which brings me to my rating.

This earns a 7/10… which pains me because this could have easily been the piecepack set I've been searching for. The problems are summed up with this picture:



The A on the ace coins is not beautiful. The nulls on the dice are gross. The tile suit symbol isn't cleanly in a corner. And I am concerned that the quality is not very high, since my pieces are already scratched up (the scratches don't show in the picture.)

My recommendation:
I hope that the future will bring a 2nd edition that will fix the issues, but I suspect that is unlikely. If you are looking for a good quality piecepack, I would recommend this set. You just need to understand that this is not to spec and if you design games you need to make sure you don’t use qualities of this set that are not to spec and you will need to carefully read the game rules to ensure that you can play them with this set.
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Russ Williams
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Thanks for the review.

Bummer; I wonder why they ignored the specs (and made Alien City - surely one of the most popular respected games - not playable with it). It also seems to simply ignore the style/tradition of other sets, as if they knew a little about piecepack and told the graphic designers to go have fun. Looks like this is not the piecepack for me. :/
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Joe Peterson
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I think it would have been a bit easier if I had used the nulls instead of the aces... but I still won't break this set out to play Alien City.
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P.D. Magnus
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jeep wrote:
You just need to understand that this is not to spec and if you design games you need to make sure you don’t use qualities of this set that are not to spec and you will need to carefully read the game rules to ensure that you can play them with this set.


Spec is an illusion. ninja Once people get a game system in their hands, they will find uses for whatever features of the pieces strike their fancy.
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Joe Peterson
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Fair enough. Though some games may be only compatible with TIBG and not a standard piecepack.
 
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Ken Leyhe
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I also have a copy and I have to say one of the nicest piecepacks I have seen and the book is very well done.
 
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Joe Peterson
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Toren, I agree that this is the nicest commercially produced piecepack I've seen. If it had at least put the suit icon in a definite quadrant it would be awesome. If they hadn't used 0s and As, it could have been near perfect.

I do wonder about the wear my set is already getting. Two games and the scratching is obvious on the tile backs. The coins are holding up well.
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Russ Williams
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pmagnus wrote:
Spec is an illusion. ninja Once people get a game system in their hands, they will find uses for whatever features of the pieces strike their fancy.

I guess you're just making an off-the-cuff joke, but just in case...

There's a significant difference between people using whatever features of the Piecepack pieces strike their fancy, and people making new pieces which are incompatible with existing Piecepack tradition, specifications, and games, but selling them as being Piecepack!

E.g. if someone started making a new so-called Decktet, selling/advertising it as "Decktet", but it had 5 suits or 7 suits instead of 6 suits, for example, so that existing Decktet games wouldn't really work with it, then that would be... bad, at least IMHO.
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Ron Hale-Evans
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It's a bummer IBG won't work for Alien City, but it's not as if it's so far off spec it won't work with any games at all. As we know, there are at least 50 piecepack games it does work with...

I used to be much more uptight about the piecepack spec. I once flamed someone who created a five-suited, poker-suited version he played with his son. Then the Playing Cards and Four Seasons piecepacks arrived. They were pretty great. Wait -- what was I angry about again? You say you want to replace Crowns with Anchors or change all the suit colors? Knock yourself out.

The piecepack is in the public domain. It's free culture, and much like free, open source software, it's there for us to tweak and sometimes fork.
 
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Russ Williams
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rwhe wrote:
The piecepack is in the public domain. It's free culture, and much like free, open source software, it's there for us to tweak and sometimes fork.

Oh, I agree that they can/may do it. I just disagree that it was a good idea to make them non-spec so that one of the best most well-known games is not playable with it.

E.g. you are free to fork an open source browser, but if you make your forked version of the browser such that it cannot view boardgamegeek.com, then I'm going to say that the change was a bad decision.
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Joe Peterson
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Adding/Changing suits and colors will create different, but usually compatible sets. Those aspects are the the ones I care about least. I can fairly easily mentally substitute anchors for arms. Heck, I don't even have a problem with the yellow/green change in Alien City. (The green or yellow in the spec is kind of weird, though.) Even if the suit was in the upper right, I can live with that as it's easy enough to simply refer to suit quadrant instead of "upper left."

I think that the IBG set is pretty good... the scratching is the issue that concerns me most. I worry that it won't hold up to real life use.

But the spec clearly says "top-left" and my favorite pp game uses that feature. It is so frustrating that they didn't move the symbol up a quarter inch to be compatible. It is being sold as a piecepack system. It's not unreasonable for me to expect them to meet spec.
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Joe Peterson
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We got in another game of Alien City and I decided to use this set just to test. Instead of the Aces, I used Nulls. It was generally better, but the Arms and Moons still require a second look. I think I could get used to it, but I still contend there is no reason we should need to. Reducing the icon by 10% would make it totally playable by using nulls... The ace icon would need a larger reduction, though.
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Ron Hale-Evans
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No one has to persuade me that Alien City is a brilliant game -- I judged the piecepack game design contest in which it was initially entered and gave it first place (with Marty Hale-Evans).

Although Alien City is arguably the piecepack killer app, it also requires $50-100 of Icehouse pieces (estimated) and for that reason is not included in the book. Perhaps the graphic designers at Workman felt free to design against spec because IBG is being aimed at the mass market, like an attractive, self-contained deck of cards.

Maybe IBG is not for the piecepack connoisseur, especially not for devotees of Alien City. (But they might build bespoke Alien City sets anyway.) Nevertheless, I'm glad it's here to keep the piecepack meme infecting new vectors, considering how dormant much of the scene is at the moment. I've already bought a copy for my nephews.

You can buy The Infinite Board Game on Amazon. Come on, that's important if you care about the piecepack's future and not just Alien City's.
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Joe Peterson
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Are you saying you don't think that the design could have been as beautiful while keeping to spec? It could have been beautiful and sold on Amazon and all that while meeting spec...

I am not arguing that this is a wonderful thing for piecepack. I also think this is a very good implementation. I think it is a benefit to the community. I think it is beautiful (aces and null excepted). It just makes me sad that we will now have two splinters of piecepack that are going to be almost compatible.
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Ron Hale-Evans
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I can only speculate. I can imagine the IBG designers deciding that a pleasing, eye-catching irregularity trumped the spec. I don't know for sure, obviously. I agree the deviation from spec is unfortunate, all else being equal -- but is everything equal here? Has there ever been a mass-market piecepack like this one before?

There are already billions and billions of deviant piecepacks in existence -- some in use by only one or a few people, some by more. I would argue that the existence of popular piecepacks with a checkerboard pattern on the back breaks the spec and hurts compatibility with more games than IBG does. I realize you probably disagree.
 
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Joe Peterson
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No, the checkerboard pattern on the back is, in my mind, a big flaw. I actually never bought any of those because of the checkered back. I don't know of games that cannot be played by ignoring the checkering, though. I do understand that it could be annoying, though. Perhaps as annoying as the suit positioning in IBG.

As for why... My money is on the graphic designer not understanding the piecepack or perhaps not understanding it beyond the handful of games in the book.

And your "billions and billions" is a bit of hyperbole. What's the most popular game, do you think? I'm betting that not a single game has sold a billion copies. I bet a deck of playing cards is the only game that even over half a billion.
 
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Ron Hale-Evans
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Yes, "billions and billions" was of course a bit of hyperbole and an homage to St. Carl. I just meant that even if all you do is look around this piecepack page on the Geek, you can find photos of a lot of homemade sets that violate the spec considerably. And do I need to mention the Hexpack?

I can't name any game that the checkerboard is incompatible with offhand, but I believe I read about some on the piecepack list back in the day. Something about its revealing the orientation of the hidden value side of the tile or something during setup, for instance. (Piece Packing Pirates?)

Maybe the designer didn't understand it; maybe the designer didn't care; maybe it was deliberate sabotage by fans of a rival game system. It sure would be nice if W. Eric Martin would drop in and say a few words. Meanwhile, as Buddhism says, "All dharmas are dukkha" (roughly, nothing is perfect). I'll make do with this inequality:

Beautiful, mass-market piecepack that doesn't violate spec >
Beautiful, mass-market piecepack that DOES violate spec >
No beautiful, mass-market piecepack at all
 
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Ron Hale-Evans
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Which raises the question: Why so many new piecepacks but so few new piecepack games? I think we need to get the contests rolling again.
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Daniel Ajoy
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rwhe wrote:
I can't name any game that the checkerboard is incompatible with offhand, but I believe I read about some on the piecepack list back in the day. Something about its revealing the orientation of the hidden value side of the tile or something during setup, for instance. (Piece Packing Pirates?)


This is off-topic, but this reminded me of a question I had. Do you know of any game that uses the suites of the ACE tiles or dice?

Or also, do you know of any game that uses the empty/blank space of the NULL tiles or dice?

I ask because my non-standard PiecePack design

https://boardgamegeek.com/image/1639074/piecepack

doesn't follow that spec, and I haven't found a game yet that suffers from it.

Daniel
 
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Joe Peterson
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Those are things that are typically easy to ignore since I don't play games that require them. The only thing I would worry about is the possible confusion of the Aces and Nulls.
 
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Zephram Raviedes
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Thanks for this; I've been waiting on my copy of The Infinite Board Game and wanted to know what the final components looked like.

I see the dice lack direction indicators - I've only seen a handful of games that used them so I considered them kind of spurious on my JCD Piecepack. The same's true for its dice suits, which could've just been indicated by color. The minimal look these dice have is much better IMO.

Hoping Piece Packing Pirates and Zombie in my Piecepack made it into the book. They're probably my two favorite Piecepack-only games.
 
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Ron Hale-Evans
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marhpez wrote:
Hoping Piece Packing Pirates and Zombie in my Piecepack made it into the book. They're probably my two favorite Piecepack-only games.


Unfortunately, they did not. For a complete list of games in the book, see http://www.ludism.org/ppwiki/The_Infinite_Board_Game or the corresponding thread on BGG.
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Daniel Ajoy
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Quote:
I see the dice lack direction indicators - I've only seen a handful of games that used them


Do you remember which ones. I'm curious?

Daniel
 
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Zephram Raviedes
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Not offhand. Same with the directional markings on the pawns, but I don't remember ever seeing those being asked for. Mind you, I've dug deep looking for games/gamesystems and haven't really looked at ludism.org that much.

On another note, I did get 'The Infinite Board Game' today in the mail and think that it's awesome and quite the steal. I too like Alien City, have a Blue Panther JCD piecepack, and got TIBG for review... thankfully, there's still plenty of ground left to cover. meeple
 
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jeep wrote:
And I am concerned that the quality is not very high, since my pieces are already scratched up (the scratches don't show in the picture.)


I have the same scratching problems, plus an additional problem with the red paint coming off during casual storage. The grid side of some of the tiles now have red smudges on them. I haven't noticed this same problem with the other colors (yet). I fear that in within a year of play these tiles will be rubbed blank.
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