Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A Moment shared Among Geeks

Yesterday, November 5th 2007, hundreds of geeks in north America came home to find a medium sized white package, with the colorful logo of a national delivery company stamped on the side, had been delivered to their home. Inside this package was perhaps the most highly anticipated reprint of the year; Hannibal, Rome VS Carthage.

Valley Games had delivered on their promise and reprinted a game who's grail status had passed legendary and was approaching the ridiculous. On that day in November, hundreds of strangers were grinning as they near simultaneously opened packages. VG did not let us down. The new version of Hannibal, at least upon initial inspection, does not disappoint. The art (as subjective as this is) IMHO is great, well done but also staying true to the look and feel of the original. The units are made of nice think cardboard, and the cards are well above average quality card stock. The jigsaw puzzle map is better to the 3 piece original with its very large fold valleys.

I have seen a few nay-sayers making comments about this that or the other minor grip with the reprint, but these people for the most part are jackasses who deserve to be tarred and feathered and cursed to play nothing but Caylus against KingPut until the end of time. If you don't like the new version go pay top dollar for the old one on eBay or shut the fuck up.

Valley Games has done a wonderful job. I am excited about the other classic game reprints that are available for order. They are the most promising game publisher to show up on the scene for some time now, and I certainly hope they can keep producing high quality, long out of print game like this.

Now that this classic game is back in circulation will it get the respect it deserves? Was it all nostalgic hype and does it's age show? I think not; but time will tell. IMHO this is the game that should be at the top of that silly list on BGG. Not some half broken, thinly and poorly themed, slavery dodging, game that plays alright if you do not have an idiot at the table. Maybe now that a larger number of people will get a chance to play it more eye will be opened to what a real deep strategic game is like. More folks will figure out just how shallow even the deepest of euro's are.... well probably not, but I certainly am glad I have a copy.

-M

60 comments:

Michael Barnes said...

You know, it was really getting back into wargames that made me realize how even "deep" or "heavy" Euros were as shallow as the Mr. Skeletor/Spears consumation...I remember sitting in the shop one day a couple of years ago with my good pal Peter Ianuzzi playing ROMMEL IN THE DESERT. I was sitting there with literally infinite options as to what I could do on my turn, all of which represented an infinite number of possible outcomes, responses, and long-term strategies. I felt like I could do anything. But Peter is a fucking SHARK, so I had to play creatively, intuitively, and try to outsmart both his superior German forces and his higher level of skill. Having such a huge decision tree made it possible for me to win _without the need_ for artificial "balancing" mechanisms.

Contrast that to a typical Euro where you might have a small handful of potential actions each turn- you may have a good option, a stupid option, and a useless option. If there's any single thing that _really_ defines what a Eurogame is to me is that there is a strict limitation placed on the number of possible choices a player has on their turn. Eurogame designers control length, balance, and variability through this limitation.

I think it's the one thing that's keeping me from declaring STARCRAFT the best game of 2007- it has a really tight structure that limits player choices and as a result it lacks that wide-open, expansive sense of possibility and freedom of choice that characterizes a game like TI3. Or even NEXUS OPS.

Now, getting back around to HANNIBAL...I haven't played it yet, but I can't wait. I think that CDWGs as pioneered by games like HANNIBAL and WE THE PEOPLE have presented the best possible balance between limiting player choices and giving the player real freedom. Each card represents a couple of possibilities that sort of focus the player's decisionmaking process but board situation and gamestate give the player opportunities for creative play in almost infinite varieties.

So yeah, I hope that the much-anticipated return of a classic like HANNIBAL will get a lot of new players to reassess just how "deep" and "rich" Eurogames really are...because with the exception of games like SETTLERS and MARE NOSTRUM, where you do have broader opportunities for making decisions rather than "Draw a faceup card or one from the drawpile", there just isn't anything that can compare to the level of play you get out of a great wargame.

the*mad*gamer said...

Yes, I received my copy as well and have no problems with the product itself. My problem is with the company. No doubt Valley Games expects the copy of Hannibal to blind the gamer and inject a state of euphoria and amnesia which will erase the fact that the company chose to go to Essen with copies of the game rather than deliver them first to the people who paid for them months ago.

It is clear to me that Valley Games put itself first ahead of the consumer. Any company that puts the customer in second place is in the end doomed to failure. In a competitive market place this is simply bad business.

Valley Games has seen my last dollar.

Michael Barnes said...

I won't say that until I've got TITAN and REPUBLIC OF ROME in hand. :-P

Juniper said...

It is clear to me that Valley Games put itself first ahead of the consumer.

I've heard that the plastic generals were ready months ago, but that the folks at Valley Games have held them back deliberately to inconvenience Steve Weeks.

Also, the guys at Valley Games were the ones that got Pete Doherty back on heroin.

mtlawson said...

You know, the fact that they went to Essen with copies doesn't bother me, since they probably handed the copies over to a fulfillment company before they split. If anything, it taught Valley Games a few lessons about assuming that one method of production from one country will be the same experience with another.

I'm not planning on pre-ordering anything else anytime soon, but that's more a function of several pre-orders from GMT still in the hopper and that with a few exceptions I'm probably going to lay off purchases for a while.

Except for probably finding a copy of Survive! for my wife for Christmas (thanks to Robert and Mike for their glowing comments in the Geek about it).

--Mike L.

Michael Barnes said...

Oh man, SURVIVE is great...as far as Euro-style games go, it's one of the best. It really ought to get one of these highline reprints, it deserves it (eyeing my beat-the-hell-up copy).

Valley Games is a weird operation...one the one hand, I think they've totally got their shit together, running a professional and well-planned business but on the other I think they're making some really stupid mistakes. All these reprints of really marginal Eurogames isn't going to keep them open and I'm not sure they can rely on their AH reprints to bankroll operations indefinitely. Preorders are a good way to mitigate risk, but I think a better long-term strategy is to be ambitious...FFG, at this point, can invest a lot of time and resources into projects because they've taken chances and been ambitious in the past. Waiting for 500 people to order EXTRABLATT really puts a limit on growth.

Having the games at Essen before preorders was a big mistake, but I do understand how they might have been left with no option but to take them- they couldn't afford to _not_ have it there. The generals I could really care less about. I ain't getting them anyway.

And then there's CONTAINER. What the fuck. I mean, I've played some games with some really dumb themes but my god, that's got to be the most boring thing I've ever seen. Apparently there's a bunch of production issues too, so it'll be interesting to see if they lose their shirt on it.

Jackwraith said...

Also received mine yesterday and was also displeased with the wait, but small game companies can't run like the big dogs do, so I'm in the 'whatever' mode on that. I'm just happy to have a copy of the game that I would never have shelled out for on Ebay, as my wallet does not equal my desire and likely never will.

Malloc said...

The wait doesn't bother me, I agree that VG should have learned some lessons about communication with Hannibal, I.E. If you expect the game in july tell the customer September.

Their going to essen doesn't bother me. They have to go there and show of Hannibal in order to survive as a publisher. It was the right decision and I doubt it impacted delivery much, if at all , in the US. I would ratehr they stay afloat and release more hard to get games than go belly up leave us all hanging.

VG should just learn to set realistic expectations and not try and please its audience. Saying in august that there is a delay, this is the reason and here is what the printer is telling us, oh and this is what we really think will happen would be all they needed to do.

People had been waiting years for an affordable copy of that game 3 extra months would not send them running for the hills.

I can't wait for titan, I ditched my RoR pre-order since I picked up galactic Destiny and played RoR at the WBC and was not blown away.

-M

Mr Skeletor said...

Valley Games is a weird operation...one the one hand, I think they've totally got their shit together, running a professional and well-planned business but on the other I think they're making some really stupid mistakes.

I'm confused as to what gives you the first impression. They are coming across like a bunch of klutzes to me. I mean asking for pre-orders for a Euro Game? What the hell?

What have these guys done so far that is so brilliant? Reprinting a bunch of old shit using a preorder system because they don't have enough faith in their product? Using Mike "looks over functionality" Doyle for the artwork? I don't see the brilliant vision that has so many people singing their praises.

I'm glad Hannibal ended up fine, but the debarkle around it was a joke. There is no way I would preorder a copy of titan after that mess, which BTW is looking to be a bit shit anyway (round counters?!?!)

Alex said...

I am quite pleased with my copy with one niggling little exception - the rulebook. It's gorgeous, well laid out and generally seems to do a good job of explaining how to play. But they really needed a good editor. The entry history section is full of run-on sentences and there's numerous egregious examples of poor phrasing or repetition throughout.

Normally the quality of the manual doesn't bug me too much - I like Warfrog games, fer chrissakes - but everything else is so spot on that this one area that isn't seems worse.

Anyway I'm really looking forward to it - if you're going to EuroQuest, malloc, we should get a game in. I have to finish reading the rules though.

ubarose said...

What boggles my mind is that VG doesn't send out a regular mass e-mail with the status of the games along with the usual blurb encouraging us to order more games. They have all our e-mail addresses. Are they so low-tech or such marketing retards that they can't create a distribution list, type a few sentences and hit the send button?

Ryan Walberg said...

I want to agree with Weeks on his point about them putting themselves first. Anyone remember the Comic Sans debacle? It went like this:

Valley Games: here's the rulebook for Die Macher.
Everyone on BGG: what the fuck? It's in Comic Sans. I hate that font.
One guy from Valley Games: it's a clean font and it's easy to read.
Everyone on BGG: everyone but you hates that font.
Everyone on BGG: yes we do.
Everyone on BGG: http://www.bancomicsans.com
One guy from Valley Games: well, *I* like it and we're going to use it anyway.

And then you had Die Macher, the heretofore unacquirable pinnacle of Eurogaming, with its tougher-than-nails looking box, printed with Comic Sans.

I respect business that take chances. Running a company on the preorder system? Hell, anyone can do that. And you certainly can't do a worse job than they did. I mean, shit, I can buy Hannibal for less than the preorder price and in many cases I could have it sooner. Someone fucked up.

james griffith said...

I'm delighted to finally get my copy. My concern is the horrible "backlash" that Hannibal and other wargames will suffer from when people (i.e. eurogamers) discover that a simple wargame is still has more rules than can be explained in 5 minutes. I'm selfish, I don't want it to impact my Titan or Republic of Rome.

Valley Games is not the best/worst publisher ever. They just walked into a firestorm of geekiness and its a damned if you do/damned if you don't environment. Somehow they got Hasbro to open their tight-pockets for the license to some great games to be reprinted. For that, I'm happy. Happy enough to shell out $55 to get Hannibal. Essen was a bad PR mistake that didn't handle well but why would I benefit from them having a less successful Essen show? It obviously didn't impact their US shipping schedule and that's all I cared about.

Their bigger problem is that they identified a big demand for certain reprints and except for Hannibal, Titan, & Republic of Rome, they are about to release alot of games that probably won't do so well. I guess I should figure out if there is anything else in the ol' AH catalog I missed the first time around....

Malloc said...

I will not be at EuroQuest, I am on kid duty witht he wife out of town this weekend so I have to do all my gaming at home on either friday or Sat night. I may be able to swing in there sat to check out the vendor but thats about it.

I only live about 15 min away if anyone is interested in gaming.

-M

jon said...

Michael, nice post about the depth of euros. Wolfgang Kramer has written explicitly about limited options, so you're spot on there. But you're presenting a strawman: the better euros have a handful of viable options. And doing the pruning ahead of time, coupled with easy rules, etc., gets you to the heart of the game right away, without a lot of flailing around. I mean, sure, wargames are richer and deeper, but that cuts several ways.

CDGs are the euros of wargames. The designers do a lot of pruning (but hopefully not too much, or the cards play you, a feeling that sometimes creeps in) and build in loads of constraints. And in the end you're often left with a small set (sometimes just binary) of choices. These choices are amazingly fun, even if they are just "left or right". I'm not sure it's so fundamentally different than that in a lot of euros. But CDGs are set in a much richer thematic context, and also the games are usually longer and have more variability. And that's all good, if that's what you're up for.

I dunno, it just seems like you're cherrypicking for your argument. There are euros with depth and replayability. Do they stack up against the best wargames or abstracts? No. But there are other virtues, and euros succeed in large part because of the compromises they make.

As for me, I'm also looking forward to Hannibal (opened my preorder copy yesterday). I love CDGs, so I'm hoping it stacks up.

Michael Barnes said...

You're absolutely right Jon- the better Euros _do_ have a variety of viable options and that's probably one of the key dividing lines between a good Euro and a bad one.

I think you're kind of undercutting how many options a CDWG realy gives you though...sure, on paper the choices can be binary (event or ops?) but in the context of a given game those choices can have hugely different sets of circumstances and consequences. Compare that to a game like PUERTO RICO where you get locked into certain actions and strategies early on and even though you might have four or five possible choices there's usually only one or two that really make any sense. Even if at its basest level a CDWG only offers binary choices, if you've got a hand of five cards that's ten possible decisions each turn.

I never said that there weren't Euros with replayabilty or depth- there's plenty out there, and those are the ones that wind up in my collection. I think a lot of the supposed depth and replayability we see the BGG parrots chattering about is illusionary though- PUERTO RICO is not a deep game, neither is CAYLUS or AGE OF STEAM for that matter.

This is a great statement-

euros succeed in large part because of the compromises they make.

This really gets to the point of why I think STARCRAFT is such a great game...they compromised the core element of the PC game (the tactical skirmish)in order to expand and develop the scope of the game. It's one of the best examples I've seen of what you're saying.

Michael Barnes said...

BTW- I'm interested to hear what you guys playing HANNIBAL for the first time have to say about it.

MWChapel said...

I've had and played Hannibal for many years. It's not a bad game, actually it's quite deep. The problem with Hannibal which people have forgotten:

1. It's LOOOONG. I mean really long. So how can all these people bitch about TtA being long, when you're going to find the same with Hannibal.

2. It's a 2Player game. You all may have it different, but getting a 2 player game to the table is damn near impossible.

3. It's a Wargame. Not your typical AT fantasy fare either. Flat out, it's a historical wargame.

But it seems the HYPE of a "grail" being reprinted has boggled the minds of everyone who has forgotten those points above. Those points are bitched out by the same people who are now drooling over the fact that they are watching the FedEx tracking of the damn thing.

idjuts.

Michael Barnes said...

Well, to retort-

1) Long games are good. I certainly don't mind a 4 hour long game if it's a great game with a distinctive narrative arc.

2) I think 2 player games are usually the most satisfying, but I know what you mean- hard to run a 2 player game when you're going to a game night or event and everyone wants to play six player games.

3)Historical wargames are great. Unfortunately, a couple of really complex and inaccessible (but by no means bad) ones have sort of given the entire genre an undeserved aura of inapproachability- THIRD REICH, PANZERBLITZ, ASL, and so on. It doesn't help that old-school wargamers tend to be these Walter Sobchak-like militant creeps that maybe know a little too much about the 1944 German order of battle. The best historical wargames get the balance right between historicity, detail, chrome rules, and playability. WE THE PEOPLE is a great example, and I expect HANNIBAL will be too.

So Chap- those were "bad" things?

MWChapel said...

So Chap- those were "bad" things?


Well not fer yer kind. ;) I was speaking to the sheeple masses on the geek stating how Hannibal is gonna break new ground with this release. And I'm sitting here thinking "what?"

For the "typical" BGG croney those "will" be bad items, but they have seemed to forgot those in the frenzy.

jon said...

I think you're kind of undercutting how many options a CDWG really gives you though

Yeah, I kind of am. They're woolly games, with a lot of moving parts. But some turns are straightforward. You've committed to a certain path, so you get your cards, sequence them in the only way that makes sense, maybe deal with a surprise or two from your opponent, but for the most part it's all pretty rote. Then next turn everything explodes.

I'm definitely seeing this with Twilight Struggle, but to some extent I've felt it with PoG, BtB, and definitely Shifting Sands. Empire of the Sun has this in the card flow, but the turn execution there is pure wargame. I'm wondering if Hannibal will be the same. I'm also soon to play Here I Stand, so there you go, that's the extent of my CDG experience.

As for deep euros (or maybe it's better to define them as euros with viable choices?), I think you're doing some undercutting yourself. Do you really find a mid-game role or building choice in PR unambiguous? AoS brings up auctions, which is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. A good auction isn't easy to design. Some are just grueling accountancy, others feel like a cheap cop-out. I'm not sure AoS's auction works right, but there are tough choices in the network planning, esp. early and mid game. I totally understand what you're getting at here, though. I just fear I sometimes sell euros short on this. Take Ticket to Ride (please, take it! ba-dum-boom). To me, its sole virtue is accessibility. But then you see that experienced players have finely parsed the ticket deck and map and will absolutely destroy casual players. I don't think that's a particularly interesting sort of depth, but it's there. Ditto Transamerica.

You keep pimping (with some caveats) Starcraft. I have zero connection to the theme, but I like what I've seen so far, and I think I have a pretty good line on your tastes, so I bet I'll like it. Maybe a purchase next year.

Michael Barnes said...

One of the cool things about STARCRAFT is that it totally works outside the theme- yet it it's definitely STARCRAFT, and the mechanics are straight from the game. Sure, it could have been any other science fiction theme and really the system would work for most settings, but there's no doubt that it's hugely thematic. So if you don't like STARCRAFT or if you prefer the far superior TOTAL ANNIHILATION for example, there's still a great game there.

I think one big difference between most CDWGs and even the Columbia block games it that since most feature point-to-point movement and low unit density they don't tend to have materially larger opportunities for potential decisions- although something that skews more wargamey like EMPIRE OF THE SUN or BTB does. But you're right, you do sort of have to commit to certain paths while adapting to opponent actions.

Yeah, I do actually feel that by mid-game decisions in PUERTO RICO become increasingly unambiguous...by that point, you've got your eyes on the bonus buildings you want/need, you're pretty much locked in on what you're producing and what route you're taking to generate VPs. From then on, it's really just exploiting the system to squeeze out the most possible points and the worst someone can do to screw up your plan is fill up the corn boat before your turn.

AGE OF STEAM...the most gamey and overdesigned game I've ever played in my entire life. It's not without merit, but it is so unbelievably stiff that you either make the best possible decision at any given point or you're fucked- and sometimes you get fucked just by going after another player, which pretty much limits your decisions. I think it's a game where unless you know exactly what you're doing then you wind up making a lot of useless decisions.k You're pretty much on a particular course after the first couple of decisions and it's difficult to really shift gears- or to do anything creative outside of the system.

I think what you're getting at- and it's a valid point- is that Euros have a different type of depth that no, I don't find particularly interesting either. Depth to me is possibility, variability, and mutability- not in figuring out which routines, processes, and sequences will yield the best oiutcomes.

the red phantom said...

Mr. Barnes, I agree with you totally about Age of Steam. If I want to play something that unforgiving, I'll wargame. But how could you declare StarCraft best game of 2007 when you already awarded that to Tide of Iron? And honestly, I'm a bit nonplussed by StarCraft after reading Vasel's fellating non-review on BGG. But I guess he does that to any game.

Some great statements regarding Valley Games. I really hope they get their shit together because it was really draining having all those stupid VG threads crop up on BGG. And it doesn't seem like they really learn from their mistakes. Extra plastic generals....that are even later than the already late game. Priceless.

Oh, well: to my Hannibal copy...

Malloc said...

sheeple masses

Best thing i have read all day.

-M

Malloc said...


TOTAL ANNIHILATION


Thanks for remembering me Barnes, StarCrap sucked when compared to TA.

I am however, looking forward to the boardgame.

-<

Shryke said...

So if you don't like STARCRAFT or if you prefer the far superior TOTAL ANNIHILATION for example, there's still a great game there.

The hell Barnes?

Have you been eating paint chips again?

Starcraft smokes Total Annihilation. It's not even a contest.

Michael Barnes said...

I'm a bit nonplussed by StarCraft after reading Vasel's fellating non-review on BGG. But I guess he does that to any game.

Yeah, really...at this point the phony shill reviews that pop up over there from time to time are more interesting and insightful than anything that comes out of his mouth (or off his keyboard, as the case may be). I paid for my copy of STARCRAFT and I'm glad to support FFG and the business in general by doing so- I don't rely on giving high profile, soft-hand reviews to keep a steady stream of free games coming.

But how could you declare StarCraft best game of 2007 when you already awarded that to Tide of Iron?

I don't think I did...I believe I said it was a likely candidate. I'm pretty sure STARCRAFT is going to take it for me though unless something really amazing gets released by the end of the year, like HAMBURGUM or CONTAINER.

Save the STARCRAFT talk for tommorrow guys.

Re: TOTAL ANNIHILATION- OK, the main thing that gives STARCRAFT an edge is atmosphere, character, and polish. But TOTAL ANNIHILATION has greater depth, more interesting gameplay, and a scrappy charm that give it an advantage. I like both games.

But I think DAWN OF WAR is probably better than either one.

kriz said...

I got my copy of Hannibal like everyone else...I've never played the game but I'll let you know how I like it once I learn the rules and get one of my friends to play it with me.

I like long, meaty games...and enjoy wargames as long as they aren't overly scripted...so this looked good to me. I totally bought into the hype and the free generals pushed me over the edge to order it.

I really don't understand the whining over the delay of the game, Ive never preordered a game before Hannibal but I knew not to expect it exactly on time...especially coming from a small start up company. I can't think of one boardgame that was announced that was released on time. I'm sure they exist but the games I follow it never happens. And alot of people complaining about the release being pushed back, I would check their collections and see hundreds of games. Why don't you play that red hot item from 2005 thats been sitting on your shelf for a couple years?

Who cares if they took it to Essen? Isn't that like one of the biggest board gaming events of the year? What sane company would not want their game to show up there?

And even the Die Macher comic sans thing...I dont get it. I bought that game as well and while comic sans isn't the best font, you can read it and doesn't detract from a good game. Picking apart things like fonts and hexagons instead of circles and stuff like that...kind of baffles me honestly. These are very minor stylistic choices.

Mr Skeletor said...

I find myself agreeing with Jon, while wargames are 'complex', that complexity is due to the attempted realisim in the rules, I never really saw wargames as being great strategic brainburners, nor have I see any of the wargamers around here play them that way. It's more "I'll try this move and see what happens." Really, abstracts are by far the best option if you are looking for 'deep' games, though that doesn't nessasarily mean fun.

I played Hannibal just after the reprint was announced, I thought it was ok, didn't blow me away or anything but wasn't bad, but I didn't quite get the hoo-ha. Maybe it's a case of it being great at the time, but without the nostalgia it's just average. We will see with the reprint I guess.

Is Dawn of War the W40K game?

Malloc said...

Yeah Dawn of war is the 40k RTS. Its good but but its not as good as Ta was for it's time.

Supreme commander (ta2) rocks its world.

-M

Michael Barnes said...

Yeah, Dawn of War is the 40K RTS...it's extremely well done and if you like the 40K universe like I do but don't care to get involved in the miniatures game, it's a good way to get your jollies. There's seven of the races (everybody but the Tyranids, and the Sisters of Battle and Dark Eldar are happening in the third expansion), pretty much all of the units, and plenty of action. It's really visceral, totally 3D, and every side has different tactics and technologies. The Dark Crusade expansion adds a sort of board game campaign element. I've got a game on pause right now, I'm about to put some Tau hurt on an IG base.

Picking apart things like fonts and hexagons instead of circles and stuff like that...kind of baffles me honestly. These are very minor stylistic choices.

See, I think things like that are important when you're trying to convey a particular sense of environment, atmosphere, or theme. Sure, they don't affect the mechanics but think about a game like TI3 if the FFG graphic design department did the whole thing in Jokerman (to be extreme) or in the dreaded Comic Sans. Font choice, typography, and layout are really important...they don't ruin a great game, but shitty art and typography more than anything else tell you you're playing an amateur, B-team production.

Of course, we're talking about a hobby where a good percentage of the people involved have trouble moving beyond 1986 in the style department, so I guess cosmetics don't matter to a lot of folks.

Rob Bartel said...

Regarding Valley Games, I think a lot of people have placed rather impossible expectations on them.

Take the Comic Sans debacle, for instance. Was it the wrong decision? Yeah, Comic Sans is a shitty font for anything this side of a comic book but it was simply flat out too late to change it - the rulebook was already at the printers. You can bet your ass that that's the reason they got an actual graphic designer to handle Hannibal, however.

As for Europeans getting the game before North Americans, what can I say? We're hardly the center of the universe - the game was manufactured in Germany (hence the very high quality). Distributing by train and truck within Europe is lightning fast compared to putting it on a boat and shipping it across Europe - container ships typically take a couple of months, from what I understand. Flying it here is ridiculously prohibitively expensive, especially once you're doing it in thousands rather than hundreds. It would have been nice if they could have timed it better but it just didn't happen.

In short, it will be interesting to see how VG evolves as a company. They've got ambitious plans but they are also demonstrating clear signs of success. It will be interesting to see how they bridge the Euro/Ameritrash gap with their titles but, to be honest, FFG is already doing the same thing (Citadels and Through the Desert, for example, are clearly not Ameritrash titles and I'd argue that Game of Thrones has strong elements of both).

Regardless, an interesting article and discussion.

the red phantom said...

Uh-oh. I'm a HUGE DoW true believer. It and other, wait for it--elegant--RTS's have totally soured me on my beloved Age games. I just bought the Asian Dynasties expansion pack to AoE3 and couldn't be more bored. I am looking forward to the Dark Eldar with great anticipation.

Jolo said...

Somehow they got Hasbro to open their tight-pockets for the license to some great games to be reprinted.

Hasbro was not involved, the designers owned the rights to their games. Why else would GMT also be doing Blackbeard?

The length of the game(s) is what may turn many of the europlayers off, they don't seem to get that a 3 hour game is not a long game if it is good, whereas a 45 minute game if it is bad is water torture.

mtlawson said...

Actually, the rights to Blackbeard and Successors did revert to Richard Berg, but Hasbro somehow managed to hang onto most of the games. Mark Herman has been trying for years to free up We The People without success, so he's begun work on Washington's War in the meantime. He's quite well aware that it can't be too close to We The People, or he'll end up facing a different army of redcoats (redsuits?) from Hasbro.

--Mike L.

james griffith said...

Matt nailed it. The IP rights and licenses are pretty specific game-to-game. In a few cases, they reverted but we had a great period of time that Hasbro ignored any request for a license. What a designer/publisher owns is complicated and interesting. I'm enjoying the Athens vs. Sparta block saga with Columbia & GMT for the same reason....


I think most classic games could easily be released as slight variations of the original (and that's not always bad). Blackbeard is apparently going to be pretty different from the original in everything but theme. Washington's War (We the People redo) is going to have a reduced card deck due to printing limitations (probably the battle cards going it seems). In the end, they are different games.

Surya said...

"And then there's CONTAINER. What the fuck. I mean, I've played some games with some really dumb themes but my god, that's got to be the most boring thing I've ever seen."
How about you don't bitch about the game until you've played it. Not everyone wants "exiting" themes. As long as the game is exiting, the theme doesn't matter. And yeah, I'm eurosnoot.

About H:RvC being at Essen: it would have been stupid not to bring it. The fair was in Germany. The game was in Germany. It was ready. No, they hadn't finished shipping them off to pre-order customers yet, but that was just due to shipping problems they couldn't have planned for. It wasn't their plan to do it this way, but it was the best way to handle it.

MrSkeletor said...


About H:RvC being at Essen: it would have been stupid not to bring it. The fair was in Germany. The game was in Germany. It was ready. No, they hadn't finished shipping them off to pre-order customers yet, but that was just due to shipping problems they couldn't have planned for.


Tough shit. The people who pre ordered PAID FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME! They were entitled to have the game first, which was the privilege they PAID FOR. If Valley Games wanted to sell it at Essen before shipping it to the dumb bastards who made the reprint possible then they should have not done preorders in the first place.

VG didn't have the balls to pay for their product, so I have no sympathy if they missed out on Essen sales, which they should have if they had any dignity as a company.

ubarose said...

About H:RvC being at Essen: it would have been stupid not to bring it. The fair was in Germany. The game was in Germany. It was ready. No, they hadn't finished shipping them off to pre-order customers yet, but that was just due to shipping problems they couldn't have planned for.

I think that if VG had kept it's customers in the loop with regular well phrased mass e-mails, updating customers on the status of the games, the shipping situation and, finally, their plans to have the game available at Essen, they could have avoided a lot of ill will. Anyone who has pushed cubes across a map would most likely understand the logistics of the situation and the logic of VG's decision (Mr. S excepted). It would have reassured their customers, and gone a long way to presenting a professional image. It is absurd that I have been gleaning information from internet discussion regarding when I can expect to receive the game that I pre-ordered from them. It makes VG look like flailing amateurs.

mtlawson said...

James, one thing I've learned when reading up on Washington's War is that Mark is definitely not approaching it as a redo (even though to the rest of us it appears so at first glance).

--Mike L.

james griffith said...

I understand Washington's War isn't meant to be a redo but apparently, the number of cards is crucial for certain production costs with GMT. As a result, it looks like either the cards need to be redesigned (side note - the WtP Expansion Cards balance the game alot) or eliminate the battle cards. I suspect the battle cards will be eliminated and some form of die and/or CRT will be used. Like alot of re-writes, it might actually be better (to open a can of worms, like Arkham Horror, Fury of Dracula) but I'm not giving up my We the People game quite yet.

Ryan Walberg said...

And in a brutal turn of events, pre-order customers who changed their address with Valley Games MONTHS BEFORE are having their games shipped to the old address.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/236650

And now for the worst part: Valley Games doesn't even have more games (for now) to replace them with!

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/236251

Sounds like a good case of /how not to run a company/.

the*mad*gamer said...

It is my pleasure to announce my new company League Games. I am now accepting pre orders for what I feel is the Ultimate Strategy Game,

The Great AT-Euro War

I have hired some of the best artists to render the cartoon avatars of all the "game politicians" and AT personalities.

One I reach my goal of 750 preorders I will ship your game promply right after Essen 08.

Please send your credit card orders to:

Steve Weeks

jon said...

The people who pre ordered PAID FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME! They were entitled to have the game first, which was the privilege they PAID FOR.
I'm OK with how it turned out, and I pre-ordered. Like the P500, I understood that risk-averse people would benefit from my "generosity," but...c'mon, it's $50 here and there, and I've more often been on the other side of that divide. I just wanted to make sure it was in print ASAP, regardless of who got it first and for how much.

Now, about the lack of clear communication, the "we're posting an update tomorrow" and then nothing for three weeks, the lack of definitive art and rules prior to the pre-order, and (now) the orders sent to old addresses, these do not inspire confidence. Still holding off on pre-ordering Republic of Rome and Titan for those reasons, but I may cave.

Ryan Walberg said...

You had to be optimistic to pre-order Hannibal from Valley Games.

You'd have to be stupid to pre-order anything else.

In hindsight, doesn't this make all of those "WE LOVE VALLEY GAMES!!!"
GeekLists and threads seem a little ridiculous?

jon said...

Distributing by train and truck within Europe is lightning fast compared to putting it on a boat and shipping it across Europe - container ships typically take a couple of months, from what I understand.
[pitchman voice]Why not play Containers and see how the fascinating world of international cargo containers *really* works![/pv]

I don't know where Michael gets off complaining about this theme; it's thrilling *and* relevant.

Mr Zir said...

Picking apart things like fonts and hexagons instead of circles and stuff like that...kind of baffles me honestly. These are very minor stylistic choices.

See, I think things like that are important when you're trying to convey a particular sense of environment, atmosphere, or theme. Sure, they don't affect the mechanics but think about a game like TI3 if the FFG graphic design department did the whole thing in Jokerman (to be extreme) or in the dreaded Comic Sans. Font choice, typography, and layout are really important...they don't ruin a great game, but shitty art and typography more than anything else tell you you're playing an amateur, B-team production.


I completely agree. There is a definite art and science to the aestetic execution of any theme, how each piece adds to or takes away from the whole. You can look at the artwork and layout and get a general feeling of atmosphere. Then read some odd font or rule and feel that "speed bump" in your catharsis, because that piece doesn't fit. It takes an awful lot of work from a talented, skilled professional to pull it all together and create an immersive environment. This isn't just boardgames either, it applies to movies, books and video games as well.

kriz said...


See, I think things like that are important when you're trying to convey a particular sense of environment, atmosphere, or theme. Sure, they don't affect the mechanics but think about a game like TI3 if the FFG graphic design department did the whole thing in Jokerman (to be extreme) or in the dreaded Comic Sans.


I completely agree. There is a definite art and science to the aestetic execution of any theme, how each piece adds to or takes away from the whole.

OK, maybe I went a little too far. I agree art design and layouts etc. are very important to immersing yourself in a game. I would not enjoy TI3 as much if it was in Jokerman font. Comic Sans is a pretty horrible font, and maybe defending it was a bad choice on my part.

But hexes instead of circles with Hannibal? Or Italy is colored a little darker? Come on...these types of complaints are petty.

I haven't seen those types of complaints here, thankfully, but I am still seeing the delay and Essen complaints.

I can understand that you want the game on time, but realistically when are games EVER released on time? And this being a brand new company, you should have expected delays. I still found plenty of games to play in the meantime.

And really, selling the game at Essen before people had actually received it at their doorstep (but apparently it was already shipped out)...I thought "mad gamer's" first post was a joke the first time I read it. Only after seeing the conversation develop on this thread did I actually realize his comments were serious. Its a huge boardgaming convention, and they had the game lying around because it was made in Germany...so they display it and sell it to a handful of people 1 or 2 weeks before it arrives at your door? I play Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis, and am 28 years old, but I feel justified here in saying "get a life".

Michael Barnes said...

Surya says:

How about you don't bitch about the game until you've played it. Not everyone wants "exiting" themes. As long as the game is exiting, the theme doesn't matter. And yeah, I'm eurosnoot.

Hmm...where do I start with this one...

Lady, I've been in games long enough to know what I like and what I don't like. When I see a game about shipping containers that is being described even by Eurosnoots as a boring efficiency exercise, then I know I'm not going to get a drop of fun out of it. I won't even give it a chance, and I will continue to bitch about in hopes that others join me chorus and eventually games with asinine themes like that that are erased from the record of human memory.

I don't know you, but if I knew you liked romantic comedies and you said "Yuck, I'm not watching CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST" then would I be so presumptuous as to say "But you don't know if you don't like it until you see it!"

As for not everyone wanting "Exiting" themes, you're right- and that's why you guys can scamper off and be "delighted" by games like CONTAINER all you want and everything is right with the world while most of the readership here plays games with "exiting" themes. There are a couple of other websites out there where games with "unexiting" themes are highlighted, endorsed, and actively promoted. This is not one of them.

But you do have part of a good point- games don't necessarily have to have an "exiting" theme to be fun...BOHNANZA has pretty much the worst theme ever, but it's a great game...the key is that crap themes can only carry games for about 45 minutes before you realize that you're wallowing in nonsensical bullshit.

Tough shit. The people who pre ordered PAID FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME!

This is really what the problem is to me...coupled with the fact that they didn't communicate to folks with preorders what was going on.

Let's illustrate it a little. Let's say you sent Tom Vasel a Paypal "prayer" of $50 and he promised you front-of-line priveleges to get into his "Salvation Station" that he is building for when the End Times start happening. He never sends you any emails or communicates with you on the progress of building the Salvation Station. The End Times start happening, and you go to South Korea but when you arrive at the Dice Tower, there's a line of people filing in whilst up on the rampart you spy Tom Vasel counting his money. How does that make you feel? Like a HANNIBAL preorder?

The internet boardgaming community is so two-faced about everything I can't believe it...on the one hand, there's this "We love the publishers" thing like Ryan pointed out but then if any little tiny thing goes wrong, it's instant hate and "I'll never buy another one of their games again".

And then Kriz says:

I play Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis, and am 28 years old, but I feel justified here in saying "get a life".

And suddenly all of this is returned to its proper perspective.

Malloc said...

You had to be optimistic to pre-order Hannibal from Valley Games.

You'd have to be stupid to pre-order anything else.


I may agree with the first part of this comment. But overoptimistic was still better than paying $300 for a used copy on ebay at the time.

On the second comment I could not disagree more. Valley Games has to date made available (here int eh states) 2 previously hard to get games. (Hannibal and Die Macher) Both are better than average games and both were well made even with a few "bugs" here or there.

I pre-order games to get them printed. For me its the only reason to do so. It has nothing to do with getting a copy a week before someone can get it (probably Cheaper) from boulder. It so that the company who is taking on the risk/work of making the game can hedge it's bet that they will at least break even. I do not thingk the guys at valley games are buying new cars due to hannibal. But I do know that lots of gamers will have a chance to play this game now, who didn't a few weeks ago.

So I will (and have) continue to pre order games from valley, and GMT and MMP and others if I think the game deserves to be made.

I am currently waiting on a number of games. Asia Engulfed, Successors, a most dangerous time, Titan, Supernova and sadly will never get a copy of the great Samurai Lords since not enough people pre-ordered.

Would I like it if i got more updates from all these companies... yes. Could VG communicated or set expectation at a more reasonable level ... sure but they are learning, I don't fault people for making mistakes, just for making the same mistake over and over again.

But was anything that happened with hannibal worth not pre-ordering another game I think deserves to be in print.. fuck no.

Lets remember the even the worst games coming out of companies like VG is far better than the rubbish that gets churned out by Hasbro and the like. We as a small hobby can't afford for companies to go out of business, so let not go around dooming a company for things like poor communication and choice of font.

-M

Mr Skeletor said...



Lets remember the even the worst games coming out of companies like VG is far better than the rubbish that gets churned out by Hasbro and the like. We as a small hobby can't afford for companies to go out of business, so let not go around dooming a company for things like poor communication and choice of font.


Sorry Malloc, but fuck Valley Games and this whole pre order bullshit.
At least Hasbro has the balls to put their money behind their own stuff, no matter how shit it may be.
The bit I don't understand is - why WOULD you pre-order a game? It's a big leap of faith, your spending you money months before the game is available and they don't even put up pictures of what you get so you go in blind. As a consumer you are taking a risk. And what are you getting for this risk?
Do you get the game cheaper? Apparently not, as online has undercut the preorder price.
Do you get the game earlier? Nope.
You get some plastic generals, which we haven't seen yet.
So why am I blowing my cash early on a product I haven't seen again?

The only argument left is "because otherwise the game might not get printed" but I find that one weak. Every 'classic' is getting reprinted, and frankly if VG didn't grab titan someone else would have by now. I bet FFG would have grabbed it when they grabbed Dune & Cosmic. And while they may have butchered it with reworking or poor art choices, at least you would have known this PRIOR to spending your dosh.

Ryan Walberg said...

Sorry malloc, but given the incredible number of immature fuckups that Valley Games is guilty of, it's better to sit back and let the chumps do the lifting and grab a copy later. If it doesn't make the 750 or whatever, who gives a fuck? There are literally hundreds of games coming out every year. Given all the the bragging you guys do about the replayability of AT games, you should have no problems finding something else to play.

Face it, Valley Games spent your money and forgot who gave it to them in the first place.

Malloc said...


Face it, Valley Games spent your money and forgot who gave it to them in the first place.


How so? I now have a copy of a game I had been looking to get for a while. It cost me a lot less than buying the original (and that game has errors in it as well) and The whole process took less than a year.

It seems awfully petty to me not to put up what amounts to a deposit to get games made, reprints or new.

I did pay less than retail, maybe not less than the online discounters, so there is some savings.

I don't trust or distrust any game company more or less than another. Are VG's shipping problems more of a sin that FFg changing the setting for Dune? What company is after money here?

-M

Mr Skeletor said...


I don't trust or distrust any game company more or less than another. Are VG's shipping problems more of a sin that FFg changing the setting for Dune? What company is after money here?


Apples and Oranges. If FFG sold you the game before telling you the theme changed, you bet I'd be bitching about it. But as it stands if you don't like it don't pay for it, simple.

This does remind me though, what the hell happened to my Wulf figure for tannhauser!

Anonymous said...

the*mad*gamer said...
No doubt Valley Games expects the copy of Hannibal to blind the gamer and inject a state of euphoria and amnesia which will erase the fact that the company chose to go to Essen with copies of the game rather than deliver them first to the people who paid for them months ago.

It is clear to me that Valley Games put itself first ahead of the consumer. (...) Valley Games has seen my last dollar.


You know what's even worse than that? Rice! That's right. Think about it, those shabby Chinese farmers are getting their rice before I do, and even though I pay 10 times more than they do!!! Talk about customer first...

But back to Essen. You won't believe it, but this bunch of eurosnoots gets their sunlight approximately 7 hours before you and me!!! I won't be paying the man anymore.

Dan Daly said...

"Lets remember the even the worst games coming out of companies like VG is far better than the rubbish that gets churned out by Hasbro"

One of the things I like about Fortress Ameritrash more than BGG is the lack of blind hasbro-hate.

When you refer to all the "rubbish" they are churning out do you mean games like:

Risk 2210
Risk Star Wars
Heroscape
Nexus Ops
Axis and Allies

Are those the games you're talking about? If so, I thought those were some of the "core" AT game library.

Most of the stuff Hasbro makes IS rubbish. Most of the stuff pretty much any publisher makes IS rubbish. Hasbro does turn out some really good games as well though.

Malloc said...


Risk 2210
Risk Star Wars
Heroscape
Nexus Ops
Axis and Allies


No, this is not what I am talking about. But these are the exceptions, and a small part of their catalog.

-M

kriz said...

You know what's even worse than that? Rice! That's right. Think about it, those shabby Chinese farmers are getting their rice before I do, and even though I pay 10 times more than they do!!! Talk about customer first...

But back to Essen. You won't believe it, but this bunch of eurosnoots gets their sunlight approximately 7 hours before you and me!!! I won't be paying the man anymore.


Truer words have never been spoken. I think I'm beginning to turn around on this issue...I've never looked at it this way before.

China, Ra the Sun God, and Valley Games will see no more of my money as of this post.

Anonymous said...

hating hasbro is remarkably pointless though. it's like being into obscure indie rock and moaning about major label pop music.

mtlawson said...

As for not everyone wanting "Exiting" themes, you're right- and that's why you guys can scamper off and be "delighted" by games like CONTAINER all you want and everything is right with the world while most of the readership here plays games with "exiting" themes.

As my wife said tonight, "Container sounds like TransEuropa without all the excitement."

--Mike L.