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Subject: Congratulations, Martin Wallace! rss

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Corin A. Friesen
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You now have a game in the top 10. What a game.

In case no one noticed or cared, Brass is currently ranked 10th. I noticed, and I cared. meeple

(Poor Caylus, but that's life. )
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Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro
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For what is worth BRASS is my number 1...
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John Earles
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Ambrose wrote:
(Poor Caylus, but that's life. )


Ratings war in 5...4...3...2...1 arrrh
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No doubt helped there by the online implementation allowing many more people to play the game many more times.
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Martin has....

1 in top 10
3 in top 15
5 in top 50
6 in top 100
10 in top 222
17 in top 500

and if anyone knows where to find historical ranking data but I think AoS had to be in top 10 at one point in time (not sure I trust my memory)
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aaxiom wrote:
You'll NEVER find a "pasted on theme" with Mr. Wallace, by any means.

Tempus war in 5...4...3...2...1 arrrh
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Chris Ferejohn
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Huh. I like Wallace's games alot - Brass is one of my favorites, and Steam probably will be too once I play it more - but I never have thought of them as hugely thematic. I mean, I don't find that the mechanics of Steam have any more to do with building a railroad than, say, Tigris and Euphrates has to do with the conflict of ancient empires.

None of which diminishes my enjoyment in the least, it just seems like an odd thing to laud him for.
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aaxiom wrote:
and if anyone knows where to find historical ranking data but I think AoS had to be in top 10 at one point in time (not sure I trust my memory)
I BELIEVE that AoS peaked at either 11 or 9 -- I think it was 11. Still... fantastic game as well. It is also my opinion that he's the best game designer alive. You'll NEVER find a "pasted on theme" with Mr. Wallace, by any means.[/q]
ah, you've only been on (or registered) BGG since 2007... I joined 2004 and that's when it was in the top 10 (before some of these other games in top 10 now were published)...

Found the right URL for the wayback machine...

AoS was ranked #7 on April 1, 2004
http://tinyurl.com/y8o5g6p

on that day the top 10 were (from http://tinyurl.com/yhda94v):

1 Puerto Rico 8.8214
2 Euphrat & Tigris 8.45793
3 Princes of Florence 8.12308
4 Settlers of Catan, The 8.11719
5 El Grande 8.10365
6 Paths of Glory 8.04897
7 Age of Steam 7.9945
8 Hammer of the Scots 7.88664
9 Macher, die 7.86469
10 Modern Art 7.85012

interesting looking at the game description for AoS then...
"This is the fourth game in the Early Railways series, but it looks more like an 18xx type of game, though with a much more managable game time. It's also getting much better components than the typical Winsome game."

would anyone still compare it as a 18xx type of game?

any case checking it's rank in the wayback machine around April 1st of 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 it was still in the top 10! (though it had gone out then back in at least once during there).

Wayback archive for AoS game page is at http://tinyurl.com/ydmo9tj
(after Apr 2008 is when url changes from /game/nnn to /boardgame/nnn so would have to enter that to get past then)

edit: make all archive.org url's tiny ones as bgg doesn't parse them correctly
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Christopher Dearlove
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cferejohn wrote:
Huh. I like Wallace's games alot - Brass is one of my favorites, and Steam probably will be too once I play it more - but I never have thought of them as hugely thematic. I mean, I don't find that the mechanics of Steam have any more to do with building a railroad than, say, Tigris and Euphrates has to do with the conflict of ancient empires.


Reiner is often (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly) accused of pasted on themes. However I don't think anyone has ever suggested that (and if they did, they were wrong) of E&T (or T&E for those newer to the game),

Since Warfrog went professional quality (from Age of Empires and Way Out West) all of its games have been clearly games built from a strong theme. But not all Wallace games are Warfrog/Treefrog games, and some others have been lighter on theme - Strada being the least themed I can think of without checking lists. But for all I know even that might have started with a theme, some games you'd be surprised started with a theme.

Age of Steam is a clear example of a type of game that's common (and I'd agree, E&T is another) where the theme comes first, and is simplified and abstracted to the point where it's semi-abstract, but the theme both drove the game and helps the feel of the game. But it's no God's Playground, which without a knowledge of Polish history (and the one I'm reading at the moment - purchased some years ago, God's Playground inspired me to get it down and read it - increases my appreciation of the game design) makes no sense at all.

Brass I would suggest is another point along that axis, between Age of Steam and God's Playground. Cotton and Iron is less abstract than yellow and blue cubes for example.



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Chris Ferejohn
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Quote:
Reiner is often (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly) accused of pasted on themes. However I don't think anyone has ever suggested that (and if they did, they were wrong)


People suggest that all the time, and compared to something like, say, Advanced Civilization, I'm prone to agree with them. I mean, there's a connection to the theme there, but it's not something like Civ or Arkham Horror where the theme is so interwoven with the game play as to be inextricable. You could play T&E with colored tiles on a board with no graphics just fine.
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Dearlove wrote:
Reiner is often (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly) accused of pasted on themes. However I don't think anyone has ever suggested that (and if they did, they were wrong) of E&T (or T&E for those newer to the game),

Steam is strongly themed. E&T is weakly themed. Reiner starts with a theme, but then he throws in miscellaneous mechanics and builds a game around the mechanics. Martin built Steam around the theme.
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J C Lawrence
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JeffyJeff wrote:
would anyone still compare it as a 18xx type of game?


Only people who neither understand or play the 18xx.

I remain generally content that the Early Railways Series (of which Age of Steam is a member) are the only actually interesting games Martin Wallace has designed. Brass does not scratch any interesting itches for me (mostly a product of the cards and disjoint planning ability). I have considerable debate as to whether Age of Steam, Lancashire Railways or New England Railways are the pinnacle of that particular heap, but I've seen nothing else from him to compare in my interests.
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J C Lawrence
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Barticus88 wrote:
Steam is strongly themed.


I disagree. I also don't consider Age of Steam to be strongly themed. FWLIW (and for your amusement) I do consider Ra to be strongly themed.

Quote:
E&T is weakly themed.


I find it moderately strongly (and accurately) themed.

Quote:
Reiner starts with a theme, but then he throws in miscellaneous mechanics and builds a game around the mechanics. Martin built Steam around the theme.


I have read and heard first hand too many reports of Reiner sweating bullets and considerable design effort around the themeing of his games -- especially ones that are later accused of being thinly or replace-ably themed. In general (ie I can't think of any exceptions ATM but there may be some) the more closely I've looked at any non-trivial Knizia game, the more rich and well-thought the theme has been revealed. E&T is an excellent case in point. So is Ra and Medici and even Tower of Babel. (FITS is perhaps an exception, as merely a scoring system dressed up as a game, but it fails the non-trivial clause). Even Amun Re is clearly designed with deep consideration for theme through-out. Ditto Samurai, Lost Cities, Stephenson's Rocket and En Garde. The difference perhaps is that Reiner's games, while deeply themed, are also sufficiently austere as to be easier than most to play while ignoring the theme. Then again, I see that as a strong point in his favour.

I don't know if Martin designed Steam around the theme or not. He may have. I don't know. I'm quite certain that Reiner designed E&T around the theme (and in fact he's said so, repeatedly), that he built Ra around the theme (albeit a different theme than it was published with), and so forth and likewise for many of his other games.
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Christopher Dearlove
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aaxiom wrote:
What I should have said is that I have never gotten the sense of Mr. Wallace "just cranking them out" for the sake of doing so. I get that sense from Dr. Knizia these days -- but that's simply good business for him and those who are buying that kind of creative output. It's obviously selling, or they wouldn't be asking him for more.


I'm not going to address most of that, as I happen to know both gentlemen. I'll just make two observations, one that Reiner's main focus is less on our sort of game than it once was, which is not quite the same as lower quality. While Martin is still aiming much of his output squarely at the market represented here, it's still his living, so commercial matters are not unimportant there either.

Incidentally to the chap who found my account of God's Playground as attracting him, I think what I wrote was fair and honest. But I do have a pro-Treefrog bias, which I think it's only fair to make clear. (All of my microbadges have a specific reason, not just an arbitrary "I like that game/whatever" reason.)
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clearclaw wrote:
I have read and heard first hand too many reports of Reiner sweating bullets and considerable design effort around the themeing of his games -- especially ones that are later accused of being thinly or replace-ably themed. In general (ie I can't think of any exceptions ATM but there may be some) the more closely I've looked at any non-trivial Knizia game, the more rich and well-thought the theme has been revealed. E&T is an excellent case in point. So is Ra and Medici and even Tower of Babel. (FITS is perhaps an exception, as merely a scoring system dressed up as a game, but it fails the non-trivial clause). Even Amun Re is clearly designed with deep consideration for theme through-out. Ditto Samurai, Lost Cities, Stephenson's Rocket and En Garde.


As a sometimes contrarian, when I read something like the above - which is more usually me making a similar point - I'll just note that there are exceptions. Through the Desert is noted in a interview that Reiner gave once as having started with a quite different idea. And I once played a little card game of Reiner's before publication, in which the question was asked how to put a certain theme onto it.

Quote:
I don't know if Martin designed Steam around the theme or not. He may have. I don't know. I'm quite certain that Reiner designed E&T around the theme (and in fact he's said so, repeatedly), that he built Ra around the theme (albeit a different theme than it was published with), and so forth and likewise for many of his other games.


I think it's hard to see - both as a matter of mechanics and history - that Age of Steam (which Steam clearly is a descendent of) was always a railway game. But whether the starting point (for earlier games in the series) was railways or railway games, I suspect would be difficult for even Martin to answer.
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J C Lawrence
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Dearlove wrote:
As a sometimes contrarian, when I read something like the above - which is more usually me making a similar point - I'll just note that there are exceptions.


No doubt. It would be surprising if all his games were designed using identical methologies. My point is rather than many of the games frequently targeted as weakly themed (eg E&T) reveal as having deeply considered themes if they're examined more than trivially.

Quote:
Through the Desert is noted in a interview that Reiner gave once as having started with a quite different idea.


Yes, I reference that above. It is one of the great examples of where a retheme has worked well.
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...here we go...
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clearclaw wrote:
JeffyJeff wrote:
would anyone still compare it as a 18xx type of game?


Only people who neither understand or play the 18xx.

I remain generally content that the Early Railways Series (of which Age of Steam is a member) are the only actually interesting games Martin Wallace has designed. Brass does not scratch any interesting itches for me (mostly a product of the cards and disjoint planning ability). I have considerable debate as to whether Age of Steam, Lancashire Railways or New England Railways are the pinnacle of that particular heap, but I've seen nothing else from him to compare in my interests.

Princes of the Renaissance deserves mention. Its a fantastic game and has some similarities to Chicago Express if you lift up the hood.
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cornjob wrote:
Princes of the Renaissance deserves mention. Its a fantastic game and has some similarities to Chicago Express if you lift up the hood.


I thought it a fine game, marred beyond recovery by unjustified randomness.
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clearclaw wrote:
I remain generally content that the Early Railways Series (of which Age of Steam is a member) are the only actually interesting games Martin Wallace has designed. Brass does not scratch any interesting itches for me (mostly a product of the cards and disjoint planning ability).

You've leveled this charge of "lack of long-term planning" against Last Train to Wensleydale as well. And yet you adore German Railways?! And Tahuantinsuyu?!
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garygarison wrote:
You've leveled this charge of "lack of long-term planning" against Last Train to Wensleydale as well. And yet you adore German Railways?! And Tahuantinsuyu?!


Yes. I find that I can readily plan 2-5 turns in advance with both games, most especially German Railways. The decision trees in both games are relatively narrow.
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I too adore PO, but to say that you can plan 2-5 turns in advance is being disingenuous. You can't plan even having a turn the very next round, much less your turn order if the cup does in fact grant you a turn.

And I too adore Tahuantinsuyu, but we cannot deny the unforeseen "take that"-grade catastrophe cards that can befall us.

The other Brass players may vouch for me here. After the first few rounds of card play in both Canal and Rail phases, a complete playing strategy and planned course of action till the end of the phase is usually formed. Brass is not a tactical card game by any means.
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clearclaw wrote:
Barticus88 wrote:
Steam is strongly themed.

I disagree. I also don't consider Age of Steam to be strongly themed. FWLIW (and for your amusement) I do consider Ra to be strongly themed.

I do indeed find this highly amusing.
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garygarison wrote:
I too adore PO, but to say that you can plan 2-5 turns in advance is being disingenuous. You can't plan even having a turn the very next round, much less your turn order if the cup does in fact grant you a turn.


None of my planing ever assumes having a turn. That's the trick to German Railways -- playing and winning without ever relying on actually having a turn. Thus the role of the player isn't to set patterns, but to set and write the patterns that drive the gestalt of players to set the game's patterns. It is entirely meta.

Quote:
And I too adore Tahuantinsuyu, but we cannot deny the unforeseen "take that"-grade catastrophe cards that can befall us.


I should note that we play without the Rural Unrest cards. However even then with the El Nino and related cards, the only change across turns is to immediate priorities, not basic planning.

Quote:
Brass is not a tactical card game by any means.


I suspect you're right, and this is in part why I didn't limit my criticism to solely planning. There are precious few games I like (and even fewer I play) which involve the players attempting to answer the question, The game just gave me these jumbled resources -- how best to use them? (While I've not spent a lot of effort on it, I can think of none other than trick-taking card games or perhaps a few draughting games ala Kardinal und Konig or Reef Encounter).
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J C Lawrence
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Larry Levy wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
Barticus88 wrote:
Steam is strongly themed.

I disagree. I also don't consider Age of Steam to be strongly themed. FWLIW (and for your amusement) I do consider Ra to be strongly themed.


I do indeed find this highly amusing.


And yet it is true. For various reasons, Ra reeks of theme to me: deistic succession.
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