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Subject: Columbia components quality rss

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Clint McElroy
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After reading glowing reviews of all the Columbia block games on the Geek, I took the plunge and pre-ordered HellasW and RitD, and ordered War of 1812 for it's rep as a good intro to non-wargamers.
Well, War of 1812 just arrived, and I was surprised to find it came with a cardboard map, instead of a nice mounted board, as I would have expected from a $40 game. I've read the rules, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it, but it would have been a much more enticing game for non-wargamers if it had a better quality board (though the map art's great, I must admit!). For the cost, I'm very disappointed.

So my question is, can I expect the same low-quality map from RitD and Hellas, seeing as how they're $50 retail games? I mean, I paid the same amount for War of the Ring, for gosh's sake, with MUCH nicer and more elaborate components. Is wood really that expensive?
 
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Jim Cote
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I think all their games are somewhat lower quality. They are a small shop. Their costs are higher because they don't do large production runs. I was a big disappointed by the Wizard Kings map material. But still, it's a great game.
 
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Jonathan
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Poor quality creeps into a lot of games these days. Check out Betrayal at House on the Hill. I picked up Hammer of the Scots recently, and loved it. Although it's a great game, the pieces are not worth the price. I wish we'd get what we paid for. I guess you could argue that as long as the game is fun, we are getting what we paid for. Still, there's no way that those blocks and crummy map cost Columbia anywhere near $50...
 
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Paul Sommer
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yah disappointing huh
I was Going to write a rant about columbia games but I simply can'y be bothered .

I won't see these games in any local or online store , I won't be able to find the players to play them in any case so why bother wasting time on the subject .For me its like watching a dust storm in a desert far way and idly wondering what the fuss is about.
 
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Peter Bogdasarian
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It's all about the print run.
 
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Iain K
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I've always had a problem with $40+ games. I know good arguments can be made for spending the money, and if the games were good enough IMHO, I'd drop the cash.

But there are hundreds of "good" games out there.

Why spend such a big chunk of change on a "good" game when there are so many better games at lower prices?
Anyway, you've got them now, so enjoy
 
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Ido Magal
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I know nothing of Columbia Game's production costs, but I can't imagine they've sold more than a thousand of any title except HotS. Production is significantly more expensive when you don't produce as much.

The market forces that affect Columbia Games are no different than those that affect any other publisher and since better components generally mean better sales, it's safe to assume that we're getting the best components their scale of production than accomodate.

But ultimately, as a gamer, I don't really care about how the sausage gets made. The only question that concerns me is "am I getting my money's worth in fun?" After getting burned buying games based on looks, I've learned to try and shop by game quality and not component quality.

I'd rather buy a well reviewed Columbia Game than 2 copies of Heroscape for the same price, since I'm convinced I'd enjoy the former much more, despite the nearly glutonous quality of components in the latter.

I'm still hopeful that the war gaming market grows to allow increased quality of components, but I'm not waiting for it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go figure out how I'm going to get a Scottish King now that England killed William Wallace.
 
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Ido Magal
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woops
production can accomodate.
 
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David Stephens
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I think the cost/price of the Columbia games are more associated with the R&D, rules editing, playtesting, etc. and are not necessarily a direct reflection on the materials used. In my opinion the components are fine/adequate, the boards could be a little sturdier but they're not terrible, certainly not the worst. While Columbia's games may not be bargains, I think they are fairly priced for what you get with respect to the overall game experience.
 
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Greg Denysenko

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columbia games quality
First of all, I have to agree with the map quality. A mounted board would be great( does anyone know how much that would cost Columbia). However, I have used a plexiglass sheet over the map with good results and actually a sort of neat affect.
 
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Read the rulebook, plan for all contingencies, and…read the rulebook again.
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Quality
Quality is something of a subjective term. I can't really say that a game is poorly produced or not until I play. At the very least until I can see it and hold it and ask pointed questions about play.

By and large, Cheapass games are extremely skimpy on physical production. A cardgame like the revised and expanded color run of Lord of the Fries or Brawl is downright lavish compared to most of their other titles.

However, compare a game like the paper envelope of Kill Doctor Lucky to Ebola Monkey Hunt. 'Lucky has clean, easily readable, and well-designed graphics. Ebola' has a map a and a deck of cards that are shabbily drawn and hard to decipher and read.

Even though both games were probably produced for a comparably rock-bottom price, 'Lucky is hands down the "quality" game in play and appearance.

At the other extreme, the War of the Ring is a lavishly produced product with over 200 plastic miniatures, full color and glossy cards and graphics, a map and counter sheet with artwrk by John Howe and the talents of FFG/Nexus

But in my first play on Friday, gamers made the following complaints about the presentation of the game

- The type on the cards was extremely difficult to read due to it's size.

- The pieces were too large for the map and a couple players were frustrated by the constant swapping of figures with the place-holder markers and then deciding which pool (casualties or reinforcements) the pieces went to.

- A corollary complaint was that the map was too small to hold all the pieces.

- Players could not tell at a glance which nations were which on the political track-- or even their status. The artwork was extremely fine on the small counters.

- Players were using Fellowship Northmen and Elves interchangeably because they both had bowmen regulars.

- Players found the script font on the map hard to read during the first play. Especially with the miniatures standing over them.

- Players generally disliked the weird province shapes that exist in the center of the map. Hard to tell what was in Lorien and what was in the Dimrill Dale, for example.

- Players had a tough time distinguishing which places were settlments and which were forts.

- Many found the icons on the dice and on the cards hard to grasp and though them counter-intuitive in general.

-The paragraphs in the rulebook are hard to distingish. There is no indentation or spacing to separate them, so it's a bit hard to scan them to find a particular point.

While most said afterwards that War of the Ring is fun (after overcoming the above hurdles) and the production for it lavish, they complained that the design of the components and the map actually got in the way of it's learning and enjoyment.

So what am I driving at?

Probably War of 1812 could use a mounted map rather than a cardboard or paper one. But it's important to play the game to determine if the design of the componentns and the quality of production is in fact disappointingly (or surprsingly) low.
 
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Seth Owen
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Print runs are small
While quite a few of Columbia's games have sold more than a 1,000 copies I think it's still fair to say that their rpint runs are still small, as are most wargames these days. It's similar to what you see happening with colleg textbooks, which are well-known for high prices and low print runs. Columbia USED to include mounted maps but gave it up quite a while ago as not worth the additional cost. Aside from Avalanche Press (here and there, now and then) no wargame publisher has used mounted maps since Avalon Hill was sold to Hasbro.
The Eurogames have mounted maps, but their print runs are much bigger.
If you insist on a mounted map, might as well swear off wargames.
 
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Jonathan's insight
Still, there's no way that those blocks and crummy map cost Columbia anywhere near $50...

Let's see the game retails for $50... so... duh Jonathan!

 
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Ed Sherman
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I just got 1812 too...
and I have to say, when I opened the box, my reactions were "that's IT?" surprise

We gave it a play today, and I like it as an introductory wargame, but I'm glad I didn't pay full price (plus shipping) for it.
 
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Mikko Karvonen
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Columbia has always been asking quite high prices for their products, be the boardgames or RPG-books. No, let me rephrase that. Columbia has always known how much to ask for their stuff to stay in business.

I am not quite sure what the situation in boardgame market is, but many companies in RPG industry used to shoot themselves into leg by pricing their products too low. Their books may have been more affordable, but the companies did not get enough profit from them and went under. There are several examples of this. And there are also examples of companies that are producing very high quality, yet somewhat niché products that do not sell that many copies, but are priced high enough to allow the company to continue doing their stuff and keeping their (very loyal) fans happy.

Personally I'm quite willing to allow Columbia - and any other producer of high quality games - to get few extra bucks from their products to stay in business. There are few enough enthusiastic and dedicated producers of great games around as it is.

On a related note, the eagerness americans complain about the prices they pay for their products always irritates me. Most of the time their prices are much lower than they are in any other country.
 
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Price complaint
On a related note, the eagerness americans complain about the prices they pay for their products always irritates me. Most of the time their prices are much lower than they are in any other country.

We know that Mikko. We do it on purpose just to irritate you. Kind of like Europeans trying to irritate Americans by commenting on our politics and imagining that we care.

Speaking of high prices, do you realize I filled my truck with gas today and the price was just over $2.00 per gallon? Thankfully I had my discount card.
 
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Rachel
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eleastic exchange rate
"On a related note, the eagerness americans complain about the prices they pay for their products always irritates me. Most of the time their prices are much lower than they are in any other country."

I find it amazing the way that whatever the exchange rate, dollars are almost always converted on a 1:1 exchange with pounds in most UK game shops. This is particularly true of RPGs and Steve Jackson Games. (This explains why SJG products always look so rubbish for the cost to us Brits and why we complain that they haven't even bothered to give us dice for the price.)

I understand it costs to ship the stuff - but surely not that much?
 
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Jon M
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I had similar first impressions on openning Europe Engulfed (my first wargame since risk). The cardboard map looked a little cheap. I soon got over it as it plays absolutely fine and is nice and clear and very usable. It is all about expectations. If you are expecting a mounted map board then when you don't get one you are disappointed. Almost any wargame is going to be unmounted due to the low volume print runs. You need to change your expectations and you will be very happy!
 
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Nigel Wright
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Columbia Games - consim or eurogame?
Columbia's games and GMT's Europe Engulfed are midway in quality between the standards for consim and eurogames. A eurogamer can take a look at a block game and feel gypped on quality and price compared to something like Phalanx's A House Divided or Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings.

A consimmer is used to paying more (due to the smaller print runs) and getting lower production values, typically half-inch square cardboard counters and maps printed on thin paper. The cardboard maps are very much a luxury item: GMT is offering to provide 'deluxe' versions of selected paper maps, and L2 games come with them as standard but are generally seen as deluxe editions (see Russian Campaign 4/e or Bitter Woods 3/e for example).

If you want a block game with a mounted map, the only example I can think of is the old Avalon Hill edition of G2G/CG's Napoleon.
 
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Thi Nguyen
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Jesus guys. People are talking like when you buy a game, what you're mostly paying for are the components. A lot of what you're paying for is the time, energy, and skill that went into designing the game - which, with the Columbia games and their carefully slim, detailed rulebooks, involves a hell of a lot of ingenuity, creativity, and I'm sure more play-balancing and work by designer and developer then most of us can imagine.

This is the frickin' information age, for chrissakes. Most of all, Columbia is selling an abstract thing, a *game*.

So compare the amount of pure *game*, the amount of carefully labored over, carefully loved, craftmanship and effort, that went into, say, Hammer of the Scots, versus, say, I don't know... the ruleset for Pirate's Cove.

The components are just freaking dressing. They're like paper quality and cover jacket design on a book.

Complaining about components quality for a slightly higher price-point here is like, I don't know, complaining that a novel is so overpriced compared to a cookbook, because the cookbook has so many pretty pictures and such glossy, pretty paper...


 
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Jonathan
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Complaining about components quality for a slightly higher price-point here is like, I don't know, complaining that a novel is so overpriced compared to a cookbook, because the cookbook has so many pretty pictures and such glossy, pretty paper...

In my mind, complaining about Columbia's components vs price is more akin to complaining about paying $50 for a good book that you really enjoy that is printed on lousy paper and with a poor binding.
 
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Chris Farrell
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In my mind, complaining about Columbia's components vs price is more akin to complaining about paying $50 for a good book that you really enjoy that is printed on lousy paper and with a poor binding.

That is a poor analogy for Columbia's games. There is no quality of their games that could be considered actually "poor". Their maps are functional, attractive, and reasonably sturdy for the amount of wear they are going to have to take (except maybe Wizard Kings, and while it was OK I wasn't thrilled by the Hammer map). The blocks are pure elegant functionality, with a nice wooded feel and generally excellent aesthetics (the Wizard Kings blocks and labels are particularly notable, although the Grey blocks in some games - Dwarves in WK, Confederates in Gettysburg - are not always of consistent coloration).

In other words, for the level they are produced at, the component quality is generally excellent. Compare to War of the Ring, for an egregious case, but even eurogames are often not crafted with as much care. Although they may have flashier wooden or plastic bits, the aesthetics and functionality usually are not superior. The sparse elegance of a Columbia game holds its own in most cases, IMO, given that you just aren't going to get mounted maps because they can't be done cost-effectively at the volumes we're talking about anymore. Even MMP has decided to go with cardstock mapboards now, as prices have been spiralling - look at the price of Armies of Oblivion, over $100, driven mostly by the cost of the mounted maps apparently.

If Columbia Games aren't your thing, that's fine, and certainly some of their games aren't without flaws (play balance in Pacific Victory or Gettysburg, lack of decent scenarios out of the box for Victory or Wizard Kings). But given the gaming value the boxes contain, and given that the Columbia folks really get the "craft" of making games as most wargame companies don't, I have never considered their prices out-of-line, unless you try to hold them up to the insane standards of the best eurogames.
 
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Kevin Moody
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For cryin' out loud...just buy a sheet of plexiglass!!!
Now I realize this is far easier to do in the US where you have a Home Depot or Lowe's store (or usually both) within a 15 minute drive, and almost everyone here has access to a vehicle that can transport a large sheet intact, but just measure out your favorite game table and go buy a sheet of thin plexiglass to cover the thing.

Should set you back $10 to $30 depending on how huge the table is.

Most maps look better under the 'glass, you'll never have to worry about edges coming up, or spills, or wear-and-tear, and in certain German games (like Settlers) it often makes a huge difference in keeping a variable map intact during play.

Another nice thing is that when you roll the dice on the 'glass it tends to "stick", so you don't have to worry about rolling in a tower, a cup, etc. If you play Breakout: Normandy (with four dice at once) or Europe Engulfed (with its 2 to the nth power of dice) then a tower is great.
 
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Nigel Wright
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Production isn't the be-all and end-all but it is a factor. It becomes more noticable in cross-over games. Consimmers are overwhelmed by Phalanx and eurogamers are underwhelmed by Columbia. But that's just the initial impression. Gameplay will have the final say. meeple
 
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Noel
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I'm wondering what it would cost to bring the maps to a local printer and have them mount them...
 
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