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Subject: Growing up with the Family rss

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Growing up with the Family

Abstract: This is not a review, it is a compilation of thoughts on the first game designed by my friend
Giwrgos Manios
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I know George for 12 years now, it would be fair to say we have lived a friendship through the most exciting times that somebody can live. Thus, he is not a friend of mine because of our common boardgaming hobby, he is one of my best friends in my life. I could also claim that our tastes in boardgames do not match usually, as I am more on the historical-flavor-wing while George is on the mechanisms-wing. That said and with my consciousness clear, whatever written in this post, is a product of unbiased critique on his first creation: The Black Hand

Honestly, I don’t really like this prototype cover and George has taken my message. I know he can have a much better one. I’m sure that when it comes to get published, an astonishing cover will be decorating The Black Hand. Back to the game.

The Black Hand is the baby of love for a theme that George likes a lot. He really loves the mafia movies and especially the “Godfather”. Instantly, a cloudy day back in 2012, a desire was born for the creation of a unique boardgame, where a player would feel the tension and the atmosphere of a mafia-ruled NY city through the 20th century. The keystone for the design had been set.

I have seen this game passing various stages in this design procedure. Sometimes I objected to a given approach, sometimes I was excited with a design twist. Due to my heavy work schedule away from my hometown, I missed some steps of its evolution, but I always watched it growing. And it came that Sunday, the 29th of May 2016, when The Black Hand won the Greek Board Game Contest 2016! It seems that the baby had grown up and became a Godfather.

George is determined to playtest it even more to eliminate any single and small imperfection. Whenever given the chance, I play it with him.

This is what we call an elegant prototype, isn’t it?

I won’t be drawn in explaining rules or describing the game sequence, as already stated this is not a review. I have some remarks posed to George about some minor changes. In some of those he agrees, elsewhere he disagrees, but my point (not only in boardgames or boardgame design, but generally in my life) is that the big picture matters. How does it feel when you play it?

I am a big fan of games that historical events overflow during the course of a play. George has done a lot of research and the events re-shape NY mafia’s history. The decisions between balancing peaceful growth and bloody street assaults are not easy at all. In our last 4-player game, I opted for an economic path domination by simultaneously blocking George from an important district. While I was feeling quite assured for my choices and that my blockade would stand for sure, the tension was at extreme heights as it was certain that he would not sit and watch me march towards victory. His outraged response fell upon me. With exceptional use of his men and weapons, my Godfather and the other heads of my Family fell dead, and the disgrace eliminated the Family from the game. I was stunned. I was outraged as I couldn’t believe how he turned the situation upside down. I was defeated. But how did these men feel after such conflicts? Isn’t this one the big picture that a mafia game should depict after a play?

The text in the introduction section of George’s rulebook is just how I felt before the massacre of my Family:

[...] Last night I went with Giuseppe and Luigi to the flower’s shop. I bought a large bouquet for my little Crista’s birthday. ‘’This is a gift for you and your daughter, Godfather!’’ Stefano Bernadetti told to me. The blurry lights of New York reflected on a black limo with tinted glasses. "Let’s follow the rear road", Giuseppe said putting his arm slowly inside his black gabardine. I caught myself in deep thoughts: Tomorrow do we meet for a sincere peace between the five families, or am I falling into a trap? This internal fear is a kind of weakness or a self-preservation need? Eventually, it is our strength itself that makes us vulnerable, I considered with a smile, as we walked through the side streets of our neighborhood. Today it’s the birthday of my daughter –business can wait till tomorrow, I thought and speeded up, with Giuseppe and Luigi following closely [...]

Just watch for The Black Hand. It comes for your table.

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