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Subject: An Open Letter to Days of Wonder – from a Fanboy rss

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brian
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It seems that DOW has done something new this week: they have managed to anger their fans of both war game titles. Well, that is not new, but how they did it was different: by releasing info on upcoming “expansions” for both games. Though it will probably be taken this way, this is not meant to be a gripe letter; it is meant as constructive criticism on the path DOW seems to be taking and what it means to me. I am an apologetic for DOW and appreciate their company and games more than just about anyone. But DOW is on the wrong path.

Paper Map Series
With the release of the Memoir '44: Campaign Bag, DOW broke ground and released a paper map called the Breakthrough map. This map was good for a couple of reasons. It provided a bit of substance to the Carry Case which already had the Memoir '44: Air Pack split out. It provided a “new” layout for the boards that allowed it to be “double deep” instead of “double wide.” Terrain, unit placement, and all scenario notes were pre-printed allowing for easy set-up. In addition, this concept could be utilized by the base game; the back side of the map was plain encouraging the creation of future scenarios.

DOW has taken a good idea and made a poor choice. They are continuing the series for Memoir '44 but also introducing it to BattleLore as well. The explanation is that these paper maps are designed for tournament and demonstration use. I can buy this and support that avenue to introduce the game to more people. As stated above, it makes for easy set-up, clear instruction, and doesn’t require terrain tiles to be hauled around. I am perfectly happy allowing convention attendees to receive these maps as an “exclusive” purchase "knowing" that the scenario will be posted online for those staying and playing at home (though this is speculation and not confirmed).

What I don’t like is that each of these items is also packaged with exclusive plastic miniatures with the promise of more of these packs to come. This tells me a couple of things. First is that DOW is imploding their base games. Part of the charm and allure of the base games are that they contain a blank board with tons of terrain. This allowed for relatively easy expansion to a wide variety of scenarios and ensures the replayability of the game. A static game board turns the base games into something else and sends a message that the core game was not correct. All that money you spent on extra boards and terrain? A waste of money. We now want you to spend your money on paper maps with a single use.

While the bonus Dodge trucks are a surprise for Memoir, the Troll offered in the BattleLore expansion is familiar to most fans. Pictures have been circulating online for quite some time. But to the disappointment of many, it is not the first in a line of creature expansions but instead another over-priced, limited release creature. This hits us on two levels. First, BattleLore was not supposed to be a “collectible” game; it was billed as being different. Of the four creatures offered, only one was available to all. To those of us lucky enough to get the Hill Giant and/or Earth Elemental, it ended up being an expansive endeavor. My “free” Hill Giant cost me about $30, the amount I paid full price at an FLGS (that is neither F nor L but that is another story) over the equivalent product online. My “free” EE cost me shipping, since I was not able to attend a convention (which would have cost more for the entry fee than the shipping anyway). Now I must purchase a $15 map to get a $3 figure (if the figure is even worth that much) and won’t get any of the reference cards or potential Creature Lair it should come with as has been the precedent. And since I have two of everything (having paid full price twice for that Hill Giant), I will need to spend $30 on maps I don’t need just to get two figures I want (my choice, I understand).

The other problem this presents is that I bought into the concept of small, monthly releases when I opted to support BL. Plans change and the retailers were reluctant on the details. That is understandable (though that should have been something DOW fleshed out before they launched the line). While the initial release was followed by many expansions, it has been almost a year since the last expansion came out. This new direction of paper maps and limited miniatures is not what I, or a good chunk of the community, expected to see at this point. Where are the heroes, the new races, and the new Lore cards? In addition, creatures are a large part of the fantasy element that should be present in this game. With the causal gamer only having access to 25% of the creatures, it is hard to taut this as a fantasy game. (Face it, most of the fantasy elements are already represented in the other C&C incarnations so it is tough to say they are all BL exclusives.)

Communication
Perhaps DOW’s revenue shows that they are doing the right thing with communication and marketing. I, for one, am turned off by the lack of discussion on upcoming products. I understand that they were burned by the M44 Carry Case fiasco. But delays are part of the industry and are something to be expected. No policy will satisfy everyone but more communication should be better (though Valley Games proves the exception). With a game that is meant to be an ever-increasing world of its own, there needs to be a clear road map. Springing expansions on the community a couple months before they will hit the shelf does not seem to be right, especially when it isn’t what the community wants to see from the line. This might be an unfair demand of any other title but not when it was advertised as such.

That in and of itself seems to be a problem with DOW: they haven’t touched base with their fans for a long time. Perhaps a few selected individuals have been contacted by the company to test and review the new products, but they do not seem to be representative of the vocal dissenters. There isn’t even a need for something formal like a focus group or web poll; they can visit their own forums and see the general sentiment of both games’ communities.

Perhaps the thoughts put forth in this letter would be averted if some news were out there. If one could be assured that the Battle Map series was only a summer convention item or that the exclusive miniatures would be available in the future, we could better chart what we want to buy of the game lines. Instead, we are left to speculate and sulk at the illness of once healthy titles.

Non-flagship Titles
Though slightly off topic, I feel this is another item dragging down DOW. We haven’t seen a fresh game come from DOW since Colosseum. All we have seen in that time is a couple BL/M44 expansions and rehashes of the TTR series. While this may be contradictory to what I am asking (more energy spent on releasing worthwhile expansions), I feel it goes to show that DOW has become something different than the company I admired. If the latest TTR game is quick to produce and floods the coffers to fund further development, by all means do it. But let’s see something substantial from that.

End Game
DOW has lost their way. Their self-imposed exile from their fans has caused them to lose touch with our gaming expectations. The latest announcements seem to show more misses than hits. While I do not claim to speak for the majority, my thoughts are shared by a growing portion of their income base of loyal fans. I have blindly and loudly supported them for a long time. I own most of their games and used to purchase anything that was announced. But I have gotten to the point where I have stopped doing either. I am considering withdrawing my support of BL and M44 until they can find themselves again. Will I enjoy what I have? Yes. But I do not enjoy the direction it is headed. Since my voice is no longer heard, perhaps my wallet will carry the message.

What should DOW do? Rethink your marketing strategy of complete silence until a product is ready to ship. Prioritize what you want to be: a 3-trick pony (BL, M44, and TTR), an innovative game company, or man up and do both. Get involved in the community as you once did in the past and participate in your forums. Listen to your fans before they move on to other games and other game companies. Don’t assume a little tidbit after months of silence will be a welcome addition; it is insulting to a degree. Share a plan and vision for your core titles framed in a loose schedule (don’t give dates – just general ideas). Get back to the personality that you had in the beginning when we could all “wonder” at the possibilities of your products.

Sincerely,
Brian
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Tim Earl
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Wow. All you have to do is look at the volume and quality of ColtsFans posts here and on the DOW site to understand the significance of someone like him becoming disenchanted with DOW.

I happen to agree with every one of his points.

I was very disappointed with the news about the upcoming M44 expansions. Pacific Theater and Eastern Front added so much to the game, but we haven't seen anything like that in a long time. And how about new scenarios? They have introduced game mechanics which have never appeared in a scenario. (Heroic Leader and Aircraft Carriers come to mind).

Without further expansions to spice things up, I may eventually grow tired of M44 and migrate to C&C:Ancients.
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Nate Rethorn
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I don't have anything to add other than I'm in complete agreement with everything Brian said. DOW is dropping the ball--badly--but it doesn't require too much to get me interested in the company again. A good Battlelore expansion and a brand-new game announced will do the trick.
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tom-le-termite
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thanks Brian for this letter.

This week is going to be a busy week for DoW...

I think that on several sites, they received many fans comments about our perception of this announce. Let's hope it will be understood and that DoW goes back to reality and matches our expectations...
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stephen
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I love playing battlelore but for a fantasy game it has relatively little fantasy as yet, there is a magic system sure, but the fantasy troop types are basically 1 giant spider and a few races which could actually be proxies for normal humans with different weapons. I was very disappointed that the highland cows were really just another kind of cavalry.

The only distinct extra creatures are limited edition so only count if you were lucky enough to get hold of them.

If the expansions turn up its not all lost but we are waiting for something distinct and flavoursome to re-kindle the love.
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Carl Forhan
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I hadn't heard about the "Dodge trucks", where can I see more info about upcoming M44 expansions?
 
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brian
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songbird wrote:
I hadn't heard about the "Dodge trucks", where can I see more info about upcoming M44 expansions?

The product pages give a bit more info and pictures than the Blog posts. Here are the three expansions announced yesterday:

For Troll and Country (BL)
Hedgerow Hill (M44)
Operation Overlord (M44)

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Robert Taylor-Smith
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There almost seems to be an obsession with DOW to avoid at all costs putting out a British expansion for M'44. Maybe I all wrong here and one is due out soon but then why keep it a secret. Based on the DOW message boards a lot of M44 players seem to have wanted one for years now (and not an 'air' expansion or 'bag').

Like almost all small game companies what gets produced is what interests the company top staff.



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Michael Wheal
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Well said Brian !

A roadmap for BL would have eased all the pain of the last 24 hours on various forums.

I must admit that I'm not particularly excited / interested about a 'new' DOW game as it seems to me that each one takes time out of developement of Memoir and BattleLore.

How much good will could be generated with a simple page on the website, listing

BattleLore - Upcoming

Heroes
Necromancer LoreMaster
Castle Pack

Memoir

British Expansion

with a bloody great big caveat of 'NO DATE YET'

etc etc



Using the excuse that they don't want to dissapoint people by not hitting target dates is a poor one - at the moment it seems that customers are more upset than a failed shipping date could ever make them.

I hope that the Troll, complete with reference cards is part of a Heroes & Creatures expansion, as it stands, right now, $18 for a Troll, with no cards, with a paper map, that I probably have the terrain pieces to make myself is not a good deal.

If only the completist in me wasn't crying to buy that darm piece of plastic...

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Geoff H
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I think that Brian has raised an excellent point about communications from DOW. Since we can't see the big picture, I'm up in the air about whether to purchase the new items.

Do I take a chance that the Troll and its scenarios will be available later (online or separately)? Should I purchase them now?

I already bought two copies of BL so that I could play epic scenarios. Now I have to buy new maps for a price that seems quite high.

If we had a general idea of the plan, we would know where to spend our money now.

As far as the Overlord scenarios for M'44. I was getting ready to plunk down cash to buy a 2nd set so I could play Overlord scenarios. Now, I'm not sure which direction to go. Do I get the Operation Overlord set and play with counters on the preprinted map? Do I buy a 2nd set so that I can play the Overlord scenarios that have already been released? Without the long range plan being shared, I'm not sure what to do.

As an aside, I was really hoping that the Air Pack rules for Overlord would be cleared up in the Operation Overlord box. The rules available now on the Website say that you can use up to 3 (?!?!?!) Air Packs with Overlord scenarios. So now I'm supposed to buy two more Air Packs in order to play Overlord scenarios???? Days of Wonder should just release the airplane minis and extra Air Sortie cards -- that's all you need to add them to Overlord Scenarios.

If Operation Overlord were to be done right, it would include all of this: Deck of Cards - included, two more sets of Airplane minis -- not included, 4 extra Air Sortie cards -- not included, redesign of existing Overlord scenarios (after all, there's only 5 of them) with Air Pack rules -- not included, army counters -- included, and a blank paper map -- not included.

Eric and Days of Wonder -- where is this headed?

Geoff
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Kevin Wood
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I'm not sure how much I agree with your statements, but I can definitely see your points.

The one thing I think the DoW really does need to do is to redefine their vision for Battlelore. It seems to have changed drastically from their original concept and fans don't really know what to expect.

The result is disappointment when new releases don't mesh with what customer's own personal vision of what they want the game to be.

They don't need to give a release schedule, just a general plan of what the game will look like in a couple of years.
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brian
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GreenBear wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps a few selected individuals have been contacted by the company to test and review the new products, but they do not seem to be representative of the vocal dissenters


I resent that statement. I was one of the playtesters who helped make the Air Pack what it is...without that playtesting and feeback, you would have had a completely different beast on your hands. I did the best I could there given the parameters.

Well I am sorry you took anything I said personally. Nothing was directed at you and nothing was directed at the Air Pack. I don't claim to speak for a majority and definitely don't speak for everyone.

Quote:
And as for expansions, brother, you don't know the half of it! I can't say much...but I have been biting my tongue for the past year! One day maybe....

While I agree that DoW has been tight lipped about their schedule (and to their own detriment...and a lot of fan frustration) that is their choice.

That's good to know. But it is not your role to sit on secrets or bite your tongue. If the details are to be kept quiet, no problem. But a general statement of "we are working on expansion X" should be expected. I don't like their policy. I have spoken out about it before, I have contacted Eric and Mark about it directly.

Quote:
Here is the alternative...nothing! No new expansions...here's your base game, enjoy.

And I am enjoying my base game (as I stateds above). But I don't approve of the direction.

Quote:
What would we do then?!

I'll tell you what, we would make our own scenarios.

With all due respect to the work you put in it, I am a game player and not a scenario designer. I pay DOW to provide the material for me. That is my choice and the choice of many others. If you want to design scenarios, go for it. I don't see how that is relevant though to the discussion at hand.

Quote:
If this is a community, act like one and not shildren waiting for daddy DoW to throw them a bone.

That's hitting a little below the belt. I have tried to be respectful in my arguments and won't match the insults.

Quote:
(for the record...Coltsfan recieved a copy of the Air Pack before I did...and I worked on it!!!)

Not sure of the relevance here but in the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a copy of the Air Pack before most. If yours came after mine, then blame the Canadian post. I think I was very fair in my statements on the Air Pack. Again, my arguments above are based on the current direction of the M44 and BL lines. I have no complaints about the M44 of the past and only minor ones for BL.

So we must agree to disagree on the rest.
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Geoff H
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GreenBear wrote:
And as for expansions, brother, you don't know the half of it! I can't say much...but I have been biting my tongue for the past year! One day maybe....

While I agree that DoW has been tight lipped about their schedule (and to their own detriment...and a lot of fan frustration) that is their choice. Here is the alternative...nothing! No new expansions...here's your base game, enjoy.


Well, it's great to know that there is more coming -- I think that alot of the comments that have been made in the past few days could have been avoided if DOW would be more free with communication.

I can definitely appreciate Brummbar's point of view. As one of the most active contributors of scenarios and input to the M'44 community, he has earned my respect for the time he spends on the hobby.

However, many of us have trouble finding time to play the game, let alone come up with our own scenarios and rules. So it's helpful to us to have "official" rules for Overlord and "official" scenarios for the Terrain Pack. I just don't have time to tinker with the system myself. Hence, I rely on DOW and people like Brummbar.

In addition, I think that DOW has earned a little bit of leeway. Generally, they listen to the community of BL and M'44 fans and we usually end up with things that we like. Example: how long was the M'44 community complaining about updating scenarios and terrain cards? Lo and behold, they appear in the Air Pack. I have to believe that DOW will deliver again if we are patient enough. I believe that we will have scenarios for all of the rules in the Terrain Pack and other expansions, a British expansion, and hopefully the Overlord Air Pack expansion (see my post above). I think that they are listening, even though we don't know it.

Alot of the comments that have been made in the past few days are a bit overdone. Yes the maps seem to be overpriced. If you think so, don't buy them.

We're only getting half of the story.

Have faith,

Geoff
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James Palmer
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Well said Brian.

For those of us that came a bit late to the game on Battlelore and missed out on the Hill Giant and Earth Elemental (and can't afford the crazy ebay prices for it), this is just another kick in the teeth, and it makes it feel like you have to be some sort of elite die-hard Battlelore player in order to play with creatures.

If I want to play with all the creatures, between this expansion and getting the others on ebay, I would have to spend somewhere between $60 and $100, possibly more, by time I factor in things like taxes and shipping.

That's a lot of money for 3 little plastic figures for a game that's not supposed to be "collectable".

Battlelore is the first gaming "system" I've bought into since Star Wars: CCG. I quit SW:CCG (and avoided other CCGs) because it's a big money hole with little value. I thought Battlelore would be different, but I guess not.

I think I'm going to just have to avoid any "system" of games from now on. Others may have a different experience, but I just feel like I get hosed by them every time.
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William Gaskill
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Brian views are shared by many of us,DoW made many specific
promises for BL & after nearly 2 years they are unkept.

Faith at some point has to be earned ,if DoW truly has
these "Great Things"in the works now is the time to get
that information out to BL customer base.

OD
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James
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Well written Brian

For me, I was disappointed to hear about the Troll expansion for BattleLore as well. It seems a little pricey for a paper map and a figurine. I haven't bought any of the expansions yet, since none of the expansions have really been all that inspiring to me. And I was expecting more from DOW next expansion for BL (for how long we've waited).

I like the idea of a paper map, I think there are a lot of interesting things they could do with that. But I don't know. I'm not ready to give up on BattleLore yet and sell/trade it away. I, for one, am going to wait and see what this Troll expansion will really be like and what will come next from DOW.
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Well..well...
Another expansion for not all Memoir44 fans . A pity...the idea of paper maps is good for one side : is easy to carry and faster to setup the game. In the other side , is not durable as the tick boards..

Im suspecting that Memoir44 will never change again. Again ? Oh!Yes, Im talking about the Air Pack . This expansion changed the game in the core.

Those last two dont. They changed the way you setup the game, the way you carry the game. Nothing more !

The most intriguing thing is the ugly gray Trucks ? What's this DoW ?
Will we be able to transport troops like Tide of Iron ? Are there rules for them incoming ?

Or this is in fact , a clue about , a subtle clue about a new expansion ? I doubt that , sorrily .

Im so sorry about those British expansion's believers that are willing to give a limb to , one day , buy this expansion.
You should keep posting about your Armour models preferences and maybe one day DoW will listen you guys.

The Breakthrough map was my last dollar I've spent with Memoir44 until they bring me another expansion that alter the game's core.

If they dont put the Hedgerow Hill Overlord BattleMap online, this will be one of most nasty and cruel things I'll ever see in the boardgame industry.
You , Memoir44 fan , since 2004, have been buying two copies of the game, expansions, maps, breakthrough map and whatever... You , Memoir44 fan , since 2004, are asking for more Overloard maps in a long time.
When you think your wait is over , DoW charges you for those long awaited overlord maps !!! And charge you in U$ 18 plus shipment for only 2 scenarios !!! Oh..but there are ugly gray trucks too...
Can you imagine? Whats the next step ? The Terrain Pack maps expansion bringing us , hum, lets say , a map with 2 new scenarios ?
I could not be more disappointed with Memoir's product roadmap.
See, people , its a Battle Map Series ....series in plural ! So, more maps in this format are incoming ! Get you wallet ready !


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Brian Morris
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When DoW came out with Memoir '44 I thought they were fantastic. They gave Memoir '44 players real bang for their buck with great expansions like the Eastern Front and the Air Pack. Then came along Battlelore and the promises of all these great plans they had for it. It looked so promising. Then the wheels fell off.

Today DoW is mostly putting out cheesy over priced expansions backed with even cheesier marketing gimmickry. It's almost like a bunch of fresh out of college marketing people with no understanding of the hobby or DoW's customers took over the company.
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brian
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GreenBear wrote:
Sorry Brian, but you know I worked on the Air Pack.

Yes, and I told you I am not taking aim at YOU or the AIR PACK. How can I make that more clear. It was never stated in the original post and it was dispelled in the follow-up. I am guessing some may have been consulted for the new line. If YOU were consulted for the Battle Packs, then YES, I am aiming at you for that one. Fair enough?

Quote:
Have you ever played one of my scenarios, or Yangtzes, or Brycies or the host of other fan created scenarios on the DoW site?

As a matter of fact, I have played most of Bryce's scenarios and commented on a lot of them before he finalized them. I only stopped playing them when he stopped producing them.

Quote:
The point here is that the community could be better supportive of itself.

No, that's really not my point. You obviously are reading something other than I wrote. If so, I can't help you with that. And if you want to talk to me directly, then you know how to get a hold of me.
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Diane Close
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GreenBear wrote:
I resent that statement. I was one of the playtesters who helped make the Air Pack what it is...


Wait a sec, you were the winner of the Air Pack DOW contest and you were also a playtester, who had advance knowledge of the game and access to the components before that contest was underway? And you still entered? And they let you? And they didn't disclose this fact to other entrants? Unreal!

People involved in the development of a game, and otherwise closely associated with the company producing a product are usually banned from entering contests related to that product because of concerns of unfair advantage and access, etc. I know, I've been a playtester numerous times in other industries, including for computer games. I'm surprised that in addition to the non-disclosure agreement there wasn't a clause that you were ineligible for contests related to that product. I know that was standard in the computer game industry when I did playtesting. Sorry, that makes me think of the DOW Air Pack contest in a whole new and unflattering light.
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Tim Earl
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I agree with those who've said they don't have the time to invest in creating their own scenarios. My play time is limited. Once I get through all the official scenarios, I may play some unofficial ones, but I hesitate to be the guinea pig on something with little or no AAR's. (Brummbar makes a good point there - I post AAR's every time I play, both to track my own stats and provide information for other players. Even if it's just a score, at least it helps people see how balanced a scenario is).

I've said it before - give us a scenario book, preferably one that takes advantage of currently unused game mechanics.
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pdclose wrote:
GreenBear wrote:
I resent that statement. I was one of the playtesters who helped make the Air Pack what it is...


Wait a sec, you were the winner of the Air Pack DOW contest and you were also a playtester, who had advance knowledge of the game and access to the components before that contest was underway? And you still entered? And they let you? And they didn't disclose this fact to other entrants? Unreal!

People involved in the development of a game, and otherwise closely associated with the company producing a product are usually banned from entering contests related to that product because of concerns of unfair advantage and access, etc. I know, I've been a playtester numerous times in other industries, including for computer games. I'm surprised that in addition to the non-disclosure agreement there wasn't a clause that you were ineligible for contests related to that product. I know that was standard in the computer game industry when I did playtesting. Sorry, that makes me think of the DOW Air Pack contest in a whole new and unflattering light.


Wasn't it a painting contest? I don't see how his involvement as a playtester would give him an unfair advantage. He posted pictures of painted components of the base game a long time ago, so it's no surprise he entered.
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leonardo balbi
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It was a painting contest.
The point is ...please , Colt and Brummbar. Fight no more. I think we should be more patience with each other here.

Its a sad thing watching Memoir44 going downstairs . You guys can , better than anyone , join forces to improve Memoir44 system.

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Christopher Hill
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Wilmington
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I too am a fan of DOW products. I share your concern in that it seems lately that is all DOW has produced is expansions to existing products. I have not been dissapointed with any of my DOW purchases, including the expansions I have bought, but I would like to see more variety to their product line.
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Michael Wheal
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Kosse
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I quote....

Quote:
The Memoir ‘44 Air Pack Airplane Painting Contest is open to anyone who submits an entry under the following guidelines, except in countries and jurisdictions where contests of this type are prohibited.

Contestants must submit a photograph of their painting of one of the planes from the Memoir ‘44 Air Pack expansion. Submissions must be in JPG format and be less than 256K in size. They can only be accepted via upload on the Airplane Painting Contest Gallery Page. Any entry sent via email or physical mail will not be considered eligible and will not be returned.

Unpainted planes are only available from, and are randomly selected for inclusion in, the November, 2007 edition of Game Trade Magazine. No other unpainted planes will be made available for this contest from Days of Wonder, Game Trade Magazine or Alliance Game Distributors.

By their submission, entrants vouch that the painting or enhancements on their entry are their own creation and not the work of anyone else and also gives permission to Days of Wonder and Game Trade Magazine to publish the submitted image in any promotional materials.

Entries must be submitted by midnight, December 31, 2007. One Grand Prize winner and two runner-up winners will be determined solely by criteria determined by Days of Wonder. Winners will be announced on January 15, 2008 and notified by email within 5 days of the contest announcement.

The Grand Prize winner will receive a custom, large-scale, printed map of the Memoir ‘44 battle of your choice. Two runner-up prizes will also be awarded with each runner up receiving a copy of the Memoir ‘44 expansion of their choice.

Employees, agents, and family members of Days of Wonder or Alliance Game Distributors are not eligible to participate in the Contest and shall be ineligible for any prize covered herein.

Entrants acknowledge that Days of Wonder, Game Trade Magazine and Alliance Game Distributors are not liable for reimbursement of any prize or consideration other than a printed, large-scale map of an official published Memoir ‘44 scenario or a single copy of a Memoir ‘44 expansion. Residents of jurisdictions where this type of Contest is prohibited by law or subject to registration are ineligible to participate in the Contest and shall be ineligible for any prize covered herein.

To upload your entry you must be registered member of the Days of Wonder Community and logged into your account. Your entry will only be identified by your user name. By submitting an entry you acknowledge that you agree to the above rules.

To submit your entry, visit the Airplane Painting Contest Gallery.


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Doesn't seem to say playtesters in there anywhere. And, to be honest, Brummbars submition was darn good.

We are deviating from the topic though.

Looking at the DoW forums, we can expect some clarification from Eric when he gets back from GenCon. (Aug 20th)


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