Thursday, 9 August 2007

New Cracked LCD Column- Eurogames


I got Bill Abner to hire an artist to illustrate what I do to Eurogames and Eurogamers in this week's Cracked LCD column and this is what he came up with. That's Robert Martin doing the choppin'.

http://www.gameshark.com/features/346/Cracked-LCD-15-Eurogames.htm


Why hasn't anyone done a Eurogame where the players are trying to impress Vlad Tepes?

48 comments:

neonpeon said...

"Why hasn't anyone done a Eurogame where the players are trying to impress Vlad Tepes?"

Hmm that might actually work. You could easily have your box cover depicting a Renaissance-era painting of an unhappy-looking guy with a moustache. (You know, that famous one.) But you can't call the game "Vlad the Impaler" - much too Ameritrash. The name of an exotic location is always welcome, however, so perhaps just call it Wallachia (the region of Romania which Vlad ruled). That's half the equation right there.

As far as the game play, obviously it involves resource management - pikes and impalement victims could be the resources, for starters... Actually we need a friendly euphemism for the victims so the game doesn't seem violent. Perhaps "townsfolk" or something.

MWChapel said...

Thanks for the scathing review of eurogames. Cause I for one am tired of these crossover videogamers dabbling in my dark arts of europerfection.

Mars may need more Women, but eurogames does't need more doomtards. The more they come into my precious hobby, the more these companies try and become marketing machines and ruin an already perfect product.

No, I don't need Fantasy Flighted version of Traders of Genoa. Stick with playing your damn Wii Wii's and leave my goodies alone.

Well done other Mike! Chase them away, faaaaarrrr away. I like my Island, It's mine.

Pat H said...

Yes of course these towns folk need to be "processed" by the mean "gaoler" who will dock you points for improper use of the town gallow - improper meaning over or under usage.

Ken B. said...

I like my Island, It's mine.


What? Ireland?

Michael Barnes said...

Come now Franklin, we all know that Chapel's island is...MONKEY ISLAND.

Neonpeon, you pretty much captured all of the eurogame cliches in one fell swoop. Right down to ending the title with an "a" or "ia".

Given the Euro enthusiasm for gross historical oversight (folks, they're slaves), it'd be interesting to see how they'd try to frame impalement as something family friendly, like they did with whore dissection in MR. JACK.

jon said...

Your moaning about euros seems largely based on declining originality. For instance, you've pilloried Pillars, but mostly on the grounds that it's been there, done that. Yes, it's abstract, procedural, etc., but its real failing is that it's a rehash. I can appreciate that (thought not to the extent you take it), but most of the readers of this article should be neophyte boardgamers; they're not comparing a game to a body of similar games. If you'd never played a euro before, how would you feel about Pillars? You'd think it was pretty slick, I bet. Clever, attractive, etc. Maybe a touch hollow, and certainly not thematic, but then...it finished quickly and presented some fun choices along the way. I agree to some extent with the need to sort out the genres (though I lump euros mostly in with abstracts), but these articles feel like you're trying to force-feed your sense of context to people who could have no understanding of it, and who need no understanding of it to appreciate whatever game is in question.

Also, this notion that euros de-emphasize player interaction is just wrong. A certain type of interaction, yes, but that's like saying basketball sucks because you're not allowed to tackle.

Pat H said...

Basketball sucks because you cant fight and take two minutes in the box after.

Anonymous said...

An exceptional rendering of how you ceaselessly impale yourself upon these "Eurogames". You truly are their most tireless and squeekiest self-declared martyr, victim. And the style is appropriately dated. Nice!

Darilian said...

Ah, yes, Anonymous...

Another post in the archetypical Passive-Agressive style. Make an ironic ad hominem attack upon the author, use some $4.25 words, and put an ironic spin on the end.

I'd give you a 8.0, but I'm East German, so only a 3.5.

Darilian

Anonymous said...

Actually, it was blatantly aggressive-aggressive.

And the only thing ironic in this exchange has been that you were the one who flashed dressed up phrasing around - incorrectly.

Rliyen said...

I like my Island, It's mine.


What? Ireland?


I was thinking Grenada.

Rliyen said...

If you'd never played a euro before, how would you feel about Pillars? You'd think it was pretty slick, I bet. Clever, attractive, etc. Maybe a touch hollow, and certainly not thematic, but then...it finished quickly and presented some fun choices along the way.

Or, you'd think it was as boring as watching paint dry. Mainly, what Pillars has against it is theme, hands down. Not to be knocking the average VGamer, but if they were given a choice between Pillars and a boardgame that they could relate to (Tide of Iron, Heroscape), they'd go with the familiar (the latter). Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but that's how I see it.

Mr Skeletor said...

This was a good article because it hints at the cliquishness and 'battle lines' that are drawn within boardgames. The piece had an air of snobbishness around it which is a good thing - it makes boardgames seem more interesting and exotic than the 'happy happy family joy' approach that is often taken.

Clarissimus said...

Having played Caylus once and then Pillars of the Earth once, I have to say that Pillars is the better game. If you rated Caylus a 2, Pillars would definitely be a 3.

Brian said...

Impalement would be the appropriate punishment for the designers of Fury Of Dracula. Maybe the people responsible for Caylus should have giant wood cubes dropped upon them?

Pat H said...

Some of the best torture devices ever imagined have a clever assemblage of wood.

Michael Barnes said...

Like that thing they tacked ol' J-dawg up on?

Russ Fade said...

If you'd never played a euro before, how would you feel about Pillars? You'd think it was pretty slick, I bet. Clever, attractive, etc. Maybe a touch hollow, and certainly not thematic, but then...it finished quickly and presented some fun choices along the way.

I was a "new" boardgamer not so long ago myself. I hate to say it, but Jon is right. Caylus was like my second Eurogame and I had a bloody good time. Ok, unleash the hounds. I was already running as I typed that!

Now, fastforward 2 years later . . . I'll take TI3, FoD, AGoT, etc, over any Euro any day of the week. I've been corrupted by aggression, betrayal, and bloodlust! I don't give a ---- if coffee gets shipped or not. No one dies during the process so what is the point?

Rliyen said...

Ok, unleash the hounds. I was already running as I typed that!

Why bother? Mindwar is so much more effective....


*fries Russ's brain from a distance*

JMcL63 said...

Another really good column Michael. I know you've got a rep in scathing scabrous humour to maintain, but I myself prefer it when you present the issues the way you did in that article. I've seen enough pointless internet headbanging to have any real appetite for it these days.

Cheers,
John ;)

Michael Barnes said...

Jon, I hear what you're saying about newbie gamers...hell, when I first got into Euros I was "delighted" by all their god damned whimsy and cleverness myself. I mean, I bought ELFENLAND ferchrissakes. And I can definitely see certain types of folks playing PILLARS in a first game/newbie situation and being "delighted" by the "gem of a game" However I think, as was pointed out, that the younger crowd and those coming from a video gaming background aren't looking for cleverness and elegance. They want immediate, direct action and I think that's something that AT games have to offer over Euros. In my first game of PILLARS, Richard Launius assessed the game by saying (quote) "I spent most of the game sending guys to a sand pit". It's one thing when you're doing that in a CIV-style game and it's a small part of an epic-scale narrative and it's another when it's one of the primary actions of the game.

AOE3 does the same thing as PILLARS but in a more vivid, more direct style. I still think it's not very good, but at least it has scope and is a lot more engaging.

Michael Barnes said...

Oh, and about "forcing my context"...well of course I am! That's the whole point of an opinion column...it's to give _my_ perspective. It's up to the reader to get context either through personal experience or by gathering other information to arrive at their own opinion. One of the biggest failings of the "name" board game reviewers is that they don't have a perspective or a solid opinion on anything- when I read the typical "not my cup of tea- 6" ratings from some of these folks I never get a sense of where they're coming from, how they're playing the game, or what they really think about it. Instead I get something that feels like a token, half-hearted opinion that is best summed up as noncommittal.

bill abner said...

The good news is that Michael's column has picked up readers every week and is now being read by thousands of people every Thursday. The GREAT thing is that we get about 200-400 referrals from this blog (on Thursdays) so a lot of that is GameShark traffic, which was kinda the whole point.

So not only is that good for Michael but it makes me look good, and let's face it: that's the driving factor behind all this stuff.

Next week I will (really this time, I mean it) run Michael's AoE 3 review...a game I like a lot more than he does, even though I think a lot of his criticisms are valid.

The AoE3 review will be followed by a "Games from the Crypt" segment on Space Crusade. I hope Michael makes this a regular part of the column, discussing games from the past, how they impact today's designs, etc.

Pat H said...

You mean you don't like sitting on the fence with a wooden picket sticking up your ass? Really?

On a different note I picked up my Carcassonne big box over the weekend (Mother in law does the accounting for a Toronto area distributor $40 cad) and was able to get a couple of games of the basic game in with my wife. This is a good game, no doubt, however the difference with the euro game and the AT game are clearly apparent. On the first page of the rules I ran into a problem, as it states something along these lines:
"Players place a tile, with the help of the other players". Then throughout the rules, especially as the expansions are introduced, you are encouraged to score more than your opponents using tile placement screwage, towers, a fucking dragon etc...

While I believe these are good additions to the game and really help to give it legs, I still can't get around the fact that the conflict is veiled and never discussed while right at the beginning you are encouraged to work together, back slap and otherwise never voice your hostility or desire to win at your opponents expense.

What the fuck is that? I don't know how many times I pulled a tile that could have easily completed my wife's mega-city (yes they had them in those days) but why would I do that? Even my wife was playing the "Put it here" and I would respond "Oh sure" to which she would respond: " If you do that you are an idiot". Why is it not accepted to just come out and say: "You are trying to win the game, and make your opponents lose" instead of this: "You can come first and your friends can come in a close second!" bullshit.

I see that several in the euro crowd are unable to grasp this because they too are using the passive aggressive approach even when arguing rather than coming out and saying "to hell with you" they would rather say: "may your admittance to heaven be problematic, delayed, yet inevitably successful". Perhaps this is the target audience.

I like the fact that there is a thief, who is robbing, intimidating, and roughing up people to hold onto his "turf", but you'll never hear it like that.

Once again don't take this as a slam on the game but rather the lack of narrative and general glossing over of the theme and the fact that people like it this way going so far as to say the game "has no conflict, elimination, or luck" when all of these are present.

Carcassonne is a good game that I will be re-writing the rules for and will house rule some dice to settle the "multiple Knights in a city" situation. If two knights are in the same city they need to scrap it out for supremacy.

When I explained the rules briefly to my wife as we were taking the kids for a walk she said: “where is the fun”, but we did enjoy the game. It still can’t measure up to the Blood Feud New York re-match with 6 player’s I’ve got going on tonight. Hopefully someone else will get drunk first and lose their cool.

Sorry for wasting your time on this but I had to get it off my chest.

jon said...

Michael, I'm in complete agreement with you about strong opinions. But hey, they're hard to express when either (a) you've never had one, or (b) you have a material interest in not pissing off your "employer." And I'm certainly in agreement that providing context about the reviewer is useful, as most reviews are (it seems to me) more about the reviewer than the game itself.

I'm sorry my point was unclear, so I'll try restating it. I think that your premise that recent euros suck because of their cannibalization is both too arcane and too irrelevant for this audience. There's just so much there that you're requiring them to take on faith. That's all I intended with the context remarks.

One thing I often think about with regard to classics vs. newer games is how much "history" clouds my current assessment. Would I feel like Settlers is really a classic game if it had come out last year? Regardless of originality, some stuff feels refined, improving on what has come before, and other stuff is just a rehash, same old with different labels. I think you do a great job of skewering the latter, but I sometimes feel you're so jaded that the former get lumped in.

Michael Barnes said...

Pat- you actually gave me an idea to do a CARCASSONNE column...I actually really like CARCASSONNE as a 2-3 player game with all (yes, all) the expansions...it can get really nasty. All this "help the other player" shit...please. But you're right, it's like there's an aversion to actual competition. The ol' five players/four objects routine.

Jon- good point about the reviews...one needs only look at Tom Vasel's self-aggrandizing "Board Game Podcast Awards" and its nomination of BATTLELORE for "innovation" to see that these guys are on a figurative payroll and that their opinions are invariably bound up in politics. Seeing Tom spin the nomination by saying he's "never seen a concept like Lore" in any other game is really pathetic and in a less pandering, glad-handing environment that would destroy whatever credibility he has. Watch for BATTLELORE to win the award including the "Game of the Year" prize so he can continue getting advance copies of DoW games.

As far as classic games and originality goes...I don't think think games have to be original to be classics per se- the first time I played SETTLERS I thought "Craps with a board". However, I do think a "classic" game is one that feels fresh and different even ten years later. Like SETTLERS. Really, like most mediums, real "originality" is excruciatingly rare and when something is genuinely original it's just as likely to be regarded as experimental, tentative, or unpolished.

I don't feel like I'm jaded so much as I've become more critical...it's like when you first get into anything, your reception is a lot higher until eventually you start to refine down to what you really like and what you don't. By the time Euros came around, I knew what I liked as far as AT goes (even though that's grown a lot over the years). It took me about five years to really sort out that most Euros weren't really the kinds of games I liked or that I wanted to play, but separating the wheat from the chaff made me realize what I truly love about Euros and which games have those qualities.

Considering that a huge number of people in the hobby today are less than 10 years (or maybe even 5 years)I believe that in the next couple of years we're going to see a lot more "backlash", for lack of a better term, in terms of Eurogames...I think the AT thing is very seriously a symptom of that, and we're seeing that even some newer gamers are coming in on the Euros and quickly finding out that what they really want out of boardgaming isn't there, but in AT games.

I'm not saying that Euros are going to be abandoned, forgotten, and Chapel's collection is going up on Ebay but I think this "era" where Euros were really sort of the big show in the hobby is done. The faddishness, the sense of exclusivity and esotericism is worn off, and the market is saturated with mediocre product.

We're already seeing that Euros, through the incorporation of design elements and mechanics in more "hybrid" games, are becoming just a part of a larger hobby than a hobby in itself. Which is where I think they need to be.

Sure, we're still going to get these jackasses who'll say "I never play any game with dice" or "AT games are for babies" but by and large the hobby is going to be more holisitic and comprehensive in terms of types of themes, mechanics, and styles of play.

But the big question is, will Jay Tummelson ever stop releasing every god damned auction game he plays at Essen?

Ken B. said...

WTF? Battlelore "innovative"? Take Memoir '44, add some specialty rules from other iterations of C&C system, and toss in a magic system reminiscent of...well...every other magic system ever made?


I can understand someone saying Battlelore is "good", even "great", but....INNOVATIVE? We're in franchise mode now with that system.


I'm not saying the ORIGINAL system wasn't innovative; it was. But singling out Battelore as being such? Wow.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone...

I don't know where to post this, so I might as well post it here. Some of you ATers will probably see it, so... yeah.

Anyway, I'm a 20-year-old gaming female, and more recently I've been weaning my friends onto games. I came to the realization quite early on that my group of buddies is not going to want to play "build the cathedral" or "harvest grain" with me.

I find myself to be a lover of games in general - I'll play mainly anything that's thrown at me, Ameritrash, Eurogame, ANYTHING. However, a group like mine seems more geared towards stuff oozing with theme, where they can have loads of fun instead of thinking all that strategically.

Now, this might be an odd request, but would one of you fine persons be able to concoct a list of Ameritrash games that are good for the Ameritrash newbie? Games to entice someone into the genre? Stuff that maybe has a shorter length, less complex ruleset, etc. than the normal AT game, that way it doesn't scare off someone new to the hobby, but at the same time, something that captures the essence of an AT game? The Eurogame genre has the filler game, which although can become unsatisfying over time, is a perfect way to introduce new gamers into the hobby. I was wondering if you guys could think up some comparable AT games.

Thanks so much, and I hope this suggestion goes a way. :)

Christine
(RiotGrrl on BGG)

Ken B. said...

Great suggestion! I'm sure one of us can come up with a good list. Maybe we'll get together behind the scenes and do our first collaborative article. We'll see what we can do.

Michael Barnes said...

WTF? Battlelore "innovative"?

Even better...Frank asked how this award show thing was any different than any other arbitrary board game award and Tom responded with

"Really? Can you name another board game award that ours is similar to?"

Talk about hubris...does the guy thinks he runs the hobby at this point?

PaulW said...

All this "help the other player" shit...please. But you're right, it's like there's an aversion to actual competition.

*Shrug* I take some of that as coming across in the translation to English or maybe a culture difference. I guarantee any one I play with will be just as happy to screw me in a Euro as any AT game.

All the expansions? Wow. Usually 3 at the most is enough for me.

Basketball sucks because you cant fight and take two minutes in the box after.

With ‘Leave it to Beaver’ reruns getting better TV ratings than the Hockey playoffs, I really wouldn’t go there… ;-)

As for the column, it was a good read, but I have to agree that it is generally 'too much' for someone who plays video games and just starting in the hobby. I found it funny that you bash Euros for 3 paragraphs and then state that you 'love a good Euro' later on.

I found the caption under the Caylus game to summarize the article well. It reminded me of when a Pastor warned a church group I was in to stay Far Away from AD&D. The Pastor gave no real reason on why to stay away, just do so. In short he had no logical reason, just his opinion. Opinions are fine, but most people are not going to switch ideas without a good reason.

I couldn't help looking at your reasons on why Euros are bad and thinking 'Yea, but there are plenty of games, even video games who are abstract, no theme and have short playing times and have been hugely popular.' Tetris and other games from the past spring to mind. Plenty of people like those games.

As for what happened to me after church? I went out and killed some frost giants with my +4 flaming sword. :-)

I look forward to your next piece.

the red phantom said...

I'm another gamer who doesn't think that trashing Eurogames helps anybody. Mr. Barnes is much better in the parts of his column where he looks at both sides in a dispassionate manner.

And I think that Mr. Barnes sneering at the "elegance" of Eurogames is profoundly wrongheaded, even just from a pure gaming standpoint. If I have any problems with FFG's line, it's that they took the style of Eurogames (see Warrior Knights), but not the substance (elegance).

Thus we have this:

They want immediate, direct action and I think that's something that AT games have to offer over Euros.

It's just the opposite. If I want "immediate, direct action", I'm going to break out In the Shadow of the Emperor, Twilight Struggle, End of the Triumvirate, or Nexus Ops, an AT/Euro hybrid. No WAY am I going to break out TI3, Descent or even AGoT. Maybe StarCraft will change this and be the real TI3 killer.

Pat H said...

I have an award that is like no other - it's called the:

"Take Head out of Ass" award, which is geared to get geeks out of their mother's basements and perhaps into a local drinking hole for some socializing that doesn't involve the endless palaver surrounding boardgames.

Pat H said...

As a Canadian I could give a shit about what ratings hockey gets in the States. Using this logic of the masses I should play more Caylus too I suppose, and not state that it sucks.

Sorry.

mtlawson said...

Great suggestion! I'm sure one of us can come up with a good list. Maybe we'll get together behind the scenes and do our first collaborative article. We'll see what we can do.

Ken, are you sure you can get everyone to agree on a starter list? I mean, just look at what happened when Runebound came up.

--Mike L.

Michael Barnes said...

I'm walking out if Ken puts RUNEBOUND on the list.

Mr Skeletor said...

RUNEBOUND most certainly should be on the list.

Rliyen said...

RUNEBOUND should be on the list.

bill abner said...

Runebound should be on the list if you are talking about gaming with 2-3 players and if you have most of the early 2nd edition card packs, particularly the one that encourages player vs player fighting. But if you read what she said, she's looking for shorter length games, which might put Runebound on the outs, again, depending on the number of players. I'll never play RB with 4 or more ever again.

Nexus Ops, Fury of Dracula, Capes & Cowls (if you can find it)...those might work.

For 2 players I'd highly suggest adding Dungeon Twister. That's an easy game to grasp and plays in an hour. Never tried the additional player expansion.

Maybe even throw in some card games like Guillotine, Gloom, and Citadels. All of those are pretty quick.

Lance Moody said...

So your advice on Caylus is to stay far away from it?

I can understand that you might not like the game and it certainly may not be the introductory game for newbies.

But somehow I am reminded of the video store clerk who dismisses Citizen Kane as "the worst film ever".

Perhaps he is right! He does work in a video store after all.

For minimum wage.

In matters of taste, there is no right answer--but there can be a reasonable one, a considered one, a fair one. It's rare and not on display here.

Lance


Oh and for the wags interested in stating that Kane IS the "worst film ever" Considered your thunder stolen.

bill abner said...

I added the screens and the Caylus caption because I know Michael despises the game. My tastes in games are similar to Michael's, although by no means a carbon copy, but I also think Caylus is massively overhyped. I make more than minimum wage, so I added the caption.

Pat H said...

Pink Flamingo's pwns Citizen Kane.

Random initiative works well in Blood Feud New York (poker chips numbered 1 through 6 in a bag) - too bad I suck at die rolling. The dice gods must have known I played Carcassonne earlier and it was time for payback because I haven't rolled that shitty in ages. I believe that it must be mathematically impossible to have that many 1's and 2's show up.

I am damned.

Anonymous said...

Well yes, I included shorter length as it's easier to keep someone seated for that long. But I understand in some circles that would be the antithesis of Ameritrash gaming on the whole.

You see, these individuals aren't gamers. At all. I don't even think any of them have played Risk. Or Stratego. Their experience with board games basically stops and ends at Monopoly and Candy Land.

They have, however, loved party games, like Taboo, Scattergories, Pit, and the like. I tried Bohnanza on them, and they also enjoyed this greatly.

My main problem with Euros is really their themes, and how dry/abstract the games can get. That's why I'm looking more towards the Ameritrash side. I mention some of the themes of these games, and they're like, "Ooh, awesome, fuck yeah, I want to play this." But obviously their capacity/patience for the more complex stuff is not there... yet.

I'm sure that they wouldn't mind length as long as it's not 2-3+ hours. And I know they'd have a blast with the uber-competitive gameplay that a lot of these games provide.

So basically we're looking at clean slates (never have played an RPG or anything like that as well) with a penchant for bawdy and loud fun, looking for some gaming. :)

Thanks for the effort put in already. :D
Christine

Ken B. said...

You're a raving lunatic if you want to equate Caylus with Citizen Kane. Even someone who isn't a fan of the movie can recognize it as being a "great" film. It is bold, exquisitely shot, and hugely influential.

Caylus is a derivative little flash in the pan. It's the movie equivalent of the hot movie of the summer that no one will think twice about five years from now.


If you like it, that's fine, but don't try to pawn Caylus off as being this timeless, brilliant absolute testament to game design. I doubt even Caylus fans will have your back on that one.

Rliyen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rliyen said...

Nexus Ops, Fury of Dracula, Capes & Cowls (if you can find it)...those might work.

For 2 players I'd highly suggest adding Dungeon Twister. That's an easy game to grasp and plays in an hour. Never tried the additional player expansion.


Seconded on Nexus Ops and Dungeon Twister with the 3/4 player expansion (for more than two players, obviously). I also recommend Monsters Menace America, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Grave Robbers from Outer Space. All are easy to pick up & are fast paced.

mtlawson said...

Do current printings of Betrayal have the rules and whatnot all straightened out? I've been curious about the game, but not so thrilled about having to jump through all the hoops to simply get the game going.

--Mike L.

Rliyen said...

Do current printings of Betrayal have the rules and whatnot all straightened out? I've been curious about the game, but not so thrilled about having to jump through all the hoops to simply get the game going.

--Mike L.

As far as I can tell, no. I picked up the last one at TRU a couple of months ago, and the handbooks were still out of whack. However, you're only "jumping through hoops" in a nominal sense. 2 PDFs, 1 FAQ and you're done. I bound the handbooks and always keep the FAQ in with the game. In fact, the handbooks should be the priority, not the FAQ, because the majority of it, in my opinion, is common sense answers.