Friday, 6 July 2007

Shameless Plug- Cracked LCD Column #2

People often tell me, "Barnes, ya got no shame". And they're right.

My second column is up at www.gameshark.com. Go click on it and help me in my bid to become the Anti-Tom Vasel. Send you paypal "prayers" to michaelbarnes@shameless.net. Together we can beat the devil.

56 comments:

Shellhead said...

Interesting choices for gateway games. Settlers and HeroScape make a lot of sense, and Zombies is a surprising but great choice, because it really is fun at first. My old gaming buddies from Indiana and I spent nearly 50% of our time at GenCon 2002 playing Zombies.

But Descent is a bold recommendation for a gateway game. I can see it having the greatest potential visual appeal to your immediate audience there, but it's such a difficult game to learn or even just to set up.

David Hahn said...

Mike, I'd love to help you pick up that Lamborghini God promised you, but, sorry...I don't pray that way... How about a handful of dog-chewed Meeples instead?

Mr Skeletor said...

Great Choices, except for Zombies! which is pure shit no matter how you slice it.
Descent is a fine choice for the list - there is nothing in it an inexperienced boardgamer would struggle with, and video gamers will find a lot of familiar elements in it.

Jack Hill said...

I've always thought that Descent *IS* Diablo the Board game---designed with the hope that they could get a Diablo license from Bungie like they did with the Warcraft game.

But Zombies!!!!? Did you just HAVE to get a horror game in there?

bill abner said...

These lits are fun because no one is really right or wrong. I like Descent being there for the same reason Frank does. A hardcore videogamer wouldn't struggle at all with it and the theme is perfect for a game junkie.

Same with Arkham Horror, which would be a good fit. Even a videogame crossover like Railroad Tycoon.

john barnes said...

Another excellent column with some great game choices. I have to disagree with Mr. Skeletor on Zombies!!!, though. My 13 year old son and his friends love it, so I think it really fits Michael's list as a gateway game.

Keep up the good work Michael, but lose the raging inferiority complex you've got going with Vasel. It's tired and doesn't make much sense considering he rates the games on your list pretty highly.

Joe Belanger said...

Great entries! And keep up the Anti-Tom candy!! Anything that brings that smug, wife-oppressing, rules-reiterating, control-obsessed, audience-buying bastard down a notch is 100% pure street-grade smack... and half the reason that I'm subscribed. Brilliant!!

notbillysparkles said...

Beat the Devil? I thought you *were* the Devil... I'm so confused.

mtlawson said...

I figure a video gamer who can handle something like Age of Empires III or any of the Total War games can handle just about anything out there without too much of a learning curve. Except for the complex wargames.

Ergo, Descent fits right on in.

--Mike L.

Juniper said...

Huh. You said "gateway." I think that phrase should be reserved for games like GRASS and STONER FLUXX.

Originally, I think that the phrase "gateway" -- when applied to boardgames -- was humorous and self-deprecating. The implication was that we are all boardgaming addicts and we want to afflict others with the same obsessive-compulsion. Like most catchphrases, though, it's overused. For many contexts, there are more precise terms than "gateway," like -- um -- "recommended."

The other thing about "gateway" is that it implies a kind of nerdy in-crowd condescension that you have otherwise been (quite laudably) trying to avoid. I think that "gateway" often implies the hope that if you play facile games about bean farming with your kid sisters then they will eventually want to play Die Macher. The games that you selected, though, are not games to be played twice before you move onto something more serious. Settlers of Catan is a great game whether you've played it 4 times or 400.

J de said...

Michael, do you get any feedback from the gameshark readers? I see you have an email there, but can't find a forum discussing your column (because I didn't want to register)

J de said...

While you can differ in opinion on the individual games in the list, I think Michael got it about right. The list as a whole has to consist of games that are easily available and offer a variety of themes and mechanics.

Although one might argue that the fantasy/horror theme is dominant in the list, this is also true for the computer gaming hobby. The only thing really missing (IMHO) is a historical theme, say M'44 or A&A as the most obvious period.

vialiy said...

I entirely agree with juniper. "Gateway" has a meaning only to the 0.1% of boardgame players obsessed with their hobby. That said, it was an excellent column and I can't wait for more. Please keep us informed whenever one comes up.

Juniper said...

I get uncomfortable when people start agreeing with me.

Can I be the Anti-Faidutti, or is that role taken?

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

(originally posted in 'putting-my-money-where-my-mouth-is' thread)

Great second column - enjoyed it. I think you were fine with all of the last four choices as they should appeal to a diverse range of video gamers for reasons of genre, mechanics, and game length ... a lot of them should find something that looks interesting that they may at least research about.

I know it will make most of us choke, but - you probably need a link to some online source for boardgame reviews or data (and if you have included one and I missed it then I'll do the smack-in-the-mouth treatment to me myself) for those who can't wait until next week.

mtlawson said...

So next week is "games to avoid", eh?

So, does The Ungame get the #1 slot?

--Mike L.

Rliyen said...

Top solid choices, Michael. Although Settlers is a fine choice for the entry to boardgaming, I would never recommend it.

Echoing Shellhead, I agree that Descent is a bold choice, but I feel that learning the game would be the highest hurdle to leap, not to mention the price. That amount of money could net at least two popular video game titles. If you're a newcomer to the boardgame scene, which would you go for? Two games for the console that you're familiar with? Or buying that $80 boardgame that you may or may not like? Granted, the same thing could be said in reverse, but at least it's more familiar territory.

I was surprised and gladdened to see Zombies! make the list. It's perfect for those FPS junkies. It's relatively inexpensive, quick to play, and great fun with the right crowd sitting around the table. It also fills me with glee to see Mr. S flip his shit when its mentioned.

All in all, the remaining choices were spot on.

*kowtow to mad game proselytizing skills*

Anonymous said...

Another Great Article! I agree with others that Zombies is an awful game. I don't like to see companies be encouraged to make crap like that. Also the reference to "FLGS" seemed out of place, a little too much "inside" lingo there - I am sure the dbags on the geek loved it.

the red phantom said...

One of the nice things about Fantasy Flight Games, aside from their unbelievable production values and great themes, is that they're committed to supporting their games with expansions to increase their longevity long after other games have withered into obscurity.

I think there's a VERY fine line between supporting a game and trolling (in the fishing vernacular) for dollars. Time was when you could make a strategy game without adding a butt-load of expansions, and it's only FFG that seems to be doing this. I'm not against expansions for RPGs--Descent, WoW, Runebound--because those games call for them. But too often they seem to be fixes with extra sauce. "Supporting a game" would be creating a crackerjack game in the first place, like Fury of Dracula. Which does not need an expansion. ;)

Russ Fade said...

Great Choices, except for Zombies! which is pure shit no matter how you slice it.



I have to agree with Skelly. Opening a box of Zombies!!! is like opening a bag of freshly-recycled cat litter.

Otherwise, great choices. These videogamers should have no problems with Descent. I've been video gaming since 1st grade and boardgaming for only about 2 years. It's really not a tough transition.

Anonymous said...

I like your "if you like this title videogame, you'd probably like this boardgame" analogies. Some more possibilities:

"Stronghold" fans should definitely try "Warrior Knights". Much better than Stronghold 2 was :-(

"The Settlers" fans will like "Settlers of Catan".

"Eve" on-line fans will like "Twilight Imperium" and "Starfarers/Starship of Catan".

"Rome:Total War" fans might like "BattleLore" or might want something more history. "Commands & Colors"? Same with "Final Fantasy", "World of Warcraft" and "Everquest"

"Company of Heros" fans will like "Tide of Iron" and "Memoir '44"

There's a whole genre of puzzle-mystery players who started with Myst and continue to buy many, many PC titles like gameshark's review of "Sherlock Holmes: Awakened". No idea what boardgames would work for them. "Mystery of the Abby"? "Kill Doctor Lucky"? Might be too chaotic for them.

JMcL63 said...

Any chance of a direct link: I just can't find any sign of your column anywhere on GameShark. D'oh!

Cheers,
John ;)

Joey Knuckles said...

You can find Cracked LCD 1.1 right here..

JMcL63 said...

Thanks joey.

Cheers,
John ;)

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

C'mon guys - please give Zombies a fair crack of the whip ;-)
It does have its place in life's grand tapestry and even I know people who enjoy - hell, I have a copy and play it now and then - and I can see it being popular with a certain slice of console jockeys ... and that's the whole idea, finding boardgames that suit people so they can then judge for themselves if the hobby is for them or not.
(And it has nothing to do with me having a pump action shotgun back in the homeland that is being severely used by my brother ... grrrrr)

Michael Barnes said...

I knew DESCENT would raise eyebrows since it flies in the face of the common wisdom that the "newbie" gamer is somehow a thumb-sucking imbecile incapable of understanding rules beyond two pages...but I knew it had direct analogs to, and is pretty obviously directly influenced by, popular video games and I think it's become quite a phenomenon in the two-odd years since it's release. Unlike a lot of games, it's really stuck around and people still play it all the time, constantly coming up with new stuff and developing the game further. That's a classic to me, and it's one that I think a lot of fantasy video gamers would really get into.

ZOMBIES...yeah, it's crap but it's _fun_ crap and I've seen more people get interested in playing games through it than I have most of the top 10 games over at The Leading Board Game Site. Tom was right on the money- I'm more concerned with directing folks to games I think they'll enjoy than I am with imposing "standards" of value, which is where I think a lot of the writing and criticism of board games out there really goes severely wrong.

Red Phantom- I agree with you on one level, but you've got to remember that "system" games are a much more sustainable product line than a single, great game. Because FFG has several system games with multiple expansions, they have the resources to do one-off great games like FURY. And I think they also really bring a lot with each expansion- witness SHATTERED EMPIRES or DUNWICH HORROR. Compare those to the BATTLELORE expansions, which do almost nothing other than create vaccuums that can only be filled by further expansions or a second purchase of the base game. _That's_ milking.

MWChapel said...

Hey, You got settlers on there so it's not "all" bad. ;)

Michael Barnes said...

Don't worry Chap...next month there's going to be a Eurogame selection guide. Neither CAYLUS nor PUERTO RICO will be on it.

Plus I'll be reviewing the "Euro-style" gameplay advertised on the AGE OF EMPIRES III box.

MWChapel said...

Don't worry Chap...next month there's going to be a Eurogame selection guide. Neither CAYLUS nor PUERTO RICO will be on it.



Interestingly enough neither Caylus nor PR are on my top 10 games(even though both are quite good games).

It'll be interesting to compare what you think are the top euro's in your selection selection guide to my top selection.


As for Age of Empires III, you might as well add the description to it "how to make a game that copies other successful games because I cannot come up with a good idea on my own".

Tom Hazlett (Southernman) said...

MWChapel said...

Interestingly enough neither Caylus nor PR are on my top 10 games(even though both are quite good games).


After a few months of careful monitoring I am now sure Chapel is a double agent ..... another few months and I should have worked out for who <:-p

the red phantom said...

you've got to remember that "system" games are a much more sustainable product line than a single, great game.

No quarrel there, but I'm concerned what happens to the design process when a company wants to create a system game. Do they water the gameplay down in the vanilla game just a tad? Do they create expansions that aren't really needed? Do the beancounters at FFG look at any one of their systems and say, "We need cash. Time for another expansion."?

Because FFG has several system games with multiple expansions, they have the resources to do one-off great games like FURY.

Are you telling me they wouldn't have published FoD if they didn't do system games? Plus, expansions and their so-so CCG's tend to gum up the works in the pipeline. I want StarCraft NOW!

And I think they also really bring a lot with each expansion- witness SHATTERED EMPIRES or DUNWICH HORROR. Compare those to the BATTLELORE expansions, which do almost nothing other than create vaccuums that can only be filled by further expansions or a second purchase of the base game. _That's_ milking.

True, but I think there's some milking going on in both companies. I totally avoided BatteLore because of that, and because the base game of C&C:A is far superior. And truth to tell, I haven't tried either of the expansions you mention, and am looking forward to doing so.

bill abner said...

Just an FYI:

This week starts the E3 convention in Santa Monica. I'll be there from Tuesday through Friday and our EiC will be back at the ranch getting all of out content edited and posted.

Michael's third installment of Cracked LCD: "FIVE BOARD AND CARD GAMES FOR VIDEO GAMERS TO AVOID" may or may not run on Thursday. We're going to be slammed with preview material because of the show.

If you don't see it on Thursday, that's the reason. Again, I dunno what our EiC is going to do with the columns this week. It may run after all. I just wanted to give you guys a heads-up.

Anonymous said...

You'll be talking to a whole new, pristine audience, unsullied with ideas like "euro" vs "non-euro".

Why even bring up the term "euro" at all? Why not just call them what they are:
Internet popular boardgames.

The frag-fest orientated will connect to IPBoards much better than "euro"/"ameritrash".

If the game has a following on the internet, you like it. If it's some Hi-ho-the-cherrio piece of crap, you don't.

And make no mistake: Most German releases are crap --look at Eric Martin already wasting weeks of his life cataloging so many infantile roll-and-move titles that no one in their right mind will ever try to sell in America.

The fact is, the vast majority of boardgames are never played by the person who buys them. They're bought as gifts. For children. And if the kids find it boring, the buyer's not around when the box is opened and so will never care.

We want games bought for the buyer themself to play. With their friends. And that are interesting enough that there's some internet buzz about the game from the people who play it.

And if a boardgame is on average played nine times before the owner moves on to a different title --you're talking to video gamers, so they already understand the fresh title need.

They want variety. They embrace change. What they don't want to do is spend the rest of their life in a chess club or in Scrabble tournaments, playing the same damn game over and over again!

Tom Vasel said...

I love all those games.

Michael Barnes said...

Great review, Tom!

Anonymous said...

Except Crocodile Pool Party.

Mr Skeletor said...

You'll be talking to a whole new, pristine audience, unsullied with ideas like "euro" vs "non-euro".
Why even bring up the term "euro" at all? Why not just call them what they are:
Internet popular boardgames.


I agree with this.

Michael Barnes said...

Hmm...that's actually a pretty interesting idea. However, I do think that Eurogames are a _genre_ in the hobby and it does define a certain type of game. All this "games are games" talk is baloney, that's like saying CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and CASABLANCA are subject to the same value judgements, design principles, and criticisms by virtue of them both being movies.

But yeah, to introduce Eurogames in a way that doesn't make them so segregated is likely a good idea.

Bohemian said...

"Fortress: I Really Like These Games" just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Mr Skeletor said...

Yeah but is your audience going to understand what you are talking about when you say "eurogames"?
Why not give these games a term that videogamers will understand, like "Shit".

LilRed said...

I won't introduce the BGG "holy grail" eurogames to the audience on Gameshark. The bigger part of the audience there won't be impressed with the eurogame crap.

If you were to introduce the BGG holy grails to them you should do it under their real name: Games overweight middle age men like to play with eachother.

MWChapel said...

Games overweight middle age men like to play with each other.

Hey I'm not overweight! Otherwise agreed, you should indeed market games for "Hey get a real job, and stop smoking pot you loser, you're not going to find real women in city of heroes you zero, and move out of you mom's basement, dork!" kind of games...

Gary Sax said...

I'm going to go ahead and agree with the anonymous comment above... probably a superior approach.

Anonymous said...

"Euro" really is just a euphemism for "German" --which everyone knows doesn't sell in America. Typical conversation:

"Hey, want to play some German games?"

"What are those? Hide the Hitler? Goosestep to Gutenberg? Juden Raus? What kind of anal retentive Nazis do you play with?"

...while a euro meant, well, a new wave 80s hair band. Maybe the game was designed by Flock of Seagulls. Or Duran Duran. In any case, it got past the "this game was designed by Nazis" objection that wanting to play a German game had.

Strange how many people who live in europe aren't considered "euro" game designers by the US internet crowd: Bruno Faidutti (France), Angelo Porazzi (Italy), and basicly every other person not from Germany except Alan Moon --who strangely is considered a euro designer even though he's American.

And then there's even German games that aren't palatable to the US crowd who likes to proclaim which titles are euros. Like all the German games with feces in them: "Los Mampfos", "Tanz der Hornochsen"... American saleability: Zero. But Germans love games with poo. How "euro".

Anonymous said...

Games overweight middle age men like to play with each other.

Psssst: The average age of video game buyers is also over 40 now.
http://www.theesa.com/facts/gamer_data.php

Thaadd said...

"Eve" on-line fans will like "Twilight Imperium" and "Starfarers/Starship of Catan".

Heh. Being an Eve junkie myself, I can say I resemble this remark.

You can never claim lag killed you in a board game though - just have to suck it up...and complain about Distant Suns rules :)

Around my gaming group, we skip 'phallic Catan' however. No one can seem to shake the ship (ahem) and wait for the balls without laughing.

Mr Skeletor said...

you're not going to find real women in city of heroes you zero,

Well based on the awesomely retarded "Sexisim on BGG" thread, you wont find real women in board gaming either.

Rliyen said...

Well based on the awesomely retarded "Sexisim on BGG" thread, you wont find real women in board gaming either.

I swear, it almost seems that Joe is not happy unless he is making an issue about something. I know he means well, but man... stop with the "issues" and the "fixes", please.

Mr Skeletor said...

I'm convinced he is just pimping for an Admin badge.
The only bit of REAL sexism I have seen there was a recent thread where some guy said Thaadd should pose in gaming gear to make up for game delays. Which of course was not brought up in the thread at all.

ubarose said...

Mr Skeletor said...


The only bit of REAL sexism I have seen there was a recent thread where some guy said Thaadd should pose in gaming gear to make up for game delays. Which of course was not brought up in the thread at all.


That's not sexism, that's flirtation.

Sexism is "I tries to get my girlfriend to play games with me by teaching her a bunch of simplistic, boring ass games like LOST CITIES and she hated all of them. Please to recommend some more boring, children's games that my girlfriend might like. But, nothing confrontational because, besides being too stupid to learn more than one page of rules, women are meek and passive and don't like any of that nasty fighting stuff."

P.S. Descent is not that difficult to learn. Video gamers aren't stupid either. Good choice Michael.

Mr Skeletor said...

Cracka please! Like that is really what Joe's thread is waffling on about.
The comment was a bit too creepy to be 'flirtation', not that I gave a shit about it mind you or think the issue is big enough to put up with another Joe lecture from the pulpit though. And Thaadd didn't seem like she needs a week off due to stress relief, but that's probably my ignorant male attitude shining through and I'm certain the speakers for all things women will insist that she is subconsciously traumatized.

I just hope the thing keeps going for another 2 weeks so I can throw some dollars in.

Thaadd said...

I'm pretty sure anyone who has to put up with me ranting in the office will not put me in the delicate flower catagory.

I was one of the 'Midnight Refugees' who applied and got hired off the movie set (Coming Soon!) into FFG and it's fairly likely I did more trauma adjusting to office life than a male workplace did to me... Prior to keeping the geeks happy with questions and replacment parts my job was scrambling up ladders to adjust lights (up to 10k watts!), squiring for the orcs, and moving sets.

I'll just take it as someone being flirty. In person at GenCon or the like would be different, however.

Citadel said...

I agree with Juniper. The reason you shouldn't recommend Zombies is that you push the soft "gateway" games to get them on the hard stuff. If you recommend Zombies they will come back next week and tell you they want to play this cool new game they got. You feel proud to have made a convert and then they pull out a copy of Munchkin of Fluxx or SPANC.

Ken B. said...

That sounds like one of the local comic shops...they ordered World of Warcraft: The Board game (because they ran PCs there for people to play WoW for a fee) and were SHOCKED at how quickly the thing kept selling out.

I mentioned to the owner, "Yeah, boardgames are pretty hot right now, you guys should order some more."

A few weeks later, he has his shelves stocked with Zombies, Munchkin and other SJG junk, Rocketville, and some other crap. I felt badly because I knew he'd be stuck with them--and I was right, as he still has them almost a year later.

Michael Barnes said...

That's the problem with games/comic shop owners who don't have a fucking clue what to buy. One of my partners was just like that...he didn't have a clue what to stock, so he'd buy like 10 copies of a game like TULCHULCHA or $2k worth of a Mechwarrior set no one wanted. Yeah.

You've got to be involved in the hobby to know what's worth stocking and what's crap. Otherwise, you pick up any old shit at the distributor and surprise! You've got one of those games that we've all seen down at the FLGS that's been sitting on the shelf since the first day you walked in...five years ago.

It's sad, I see it happen so often...stores that will have 10 copies of a marginal title on the shelf or some bizarro game I've never heard of (like say, PERPETUAL COMMOTION) and then not a single copy of any GMT game. Not because they sold out of them, but because they didn't know to order them to begin with.

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