Thursday, 20 December 2007

The 2007 Cracked LCD Awards

Yes, it's time. Over at Gameshark.com I've posted my year-end awards list. For my part, I will say that this is probably the only list you won't see AGRICOLA, RACE FOR THE GALAXY, or AGE OF EMPIRES III on when all is said and done. But hey, go look and come back here to argue. But Mike, say you, what about the 2007 Trashies? That's next week, and they're a F:AT exclusive. Gotta protect Bill Abner and co. from any litigation.

87 comments:

Juniper said...

Best single sentence that anyone has written in English about boardgames this year:

[Eurogames] haven't always [sucked], and they don't always, but by and large the genre is at the point where we're getting all the Bushes and Silverchairs and none of the Pixies and Mudhoneys.

vialiy said...

I agree, it's the perfect comparison. '90s grunge was just '80s bland pop with the fussy guitar "mechanism" added.

the red phantom said...

I just love how the most virulent of Eurto-haters, in this case Mr. Barnes, totally overlooks the fact that his holy AT brand is being watered down by the very Euro-ness he claims to hate. Euros bad! Except, of course, when that's most of what StarCraft is made of. Then it's genius!

I'm finding it increasingly hard to take Mr. Barnes seriously anymore, though he still writes like a slumming angel. Too many of his opinions are filtered through his intense likes and dislikes. We're all pretty sure that he hasn't even played too many 2007 Euro releases, and I'd bet my AT badge that he hasn't exactly been going out of his way to play the new wargame releases either. At least he admits as much. But, of course, why go to all that trouble when you've played Tide of Iron with its annoying figure trays and unbalanced scenarios, or StarCraft with its tepid combat and ludicrous Special Victory conditions? Game over, man, game over!

I'm going to lay some money down and see if I can predict Mr. Barnes' 2008 hits from a year aaway. Not hard to do, just veer towards FFG and keep right on going. Sigh.

Juniper said...

Too many of his opinions are filtered through his intense likes and dislikes.

Translation: too many of his opinions are filtered through his opinions.

vialiy said...

Red Phantom:

(...) Mr. Barnes, totally overlooks the fact that his holy AT brand is being watered down by the very Euro-ness he claims to hate.

Barnes:

There’s definitely a transition taking place in the hobby as the domination and prevalence of the abstract European-style family game is giving way to more conflict-oriented, interactive, and thematic games. This is a good thing, particularly when the designers of such games incorporate the best elements of classic Eurogames into new designs.

Michael Barnes said...

Oh no! The Red Phantom strikes again!

I don't even know where to start with you, my friend...I'll make sure that any opinions that I post in the future are more generalized and subjective rather than color my writing with my own likes and dislikes. I keep forgetting that's how the big-time movie and music critics do it.

I think it's awesome how you can recontextualize things- like you've done here before- and make such a strident case against me.

But you know what? You're right- I haven't played a whole lot of Euros this year but I've played almost all of the top tier, high profile releases and a couple of the smaller ones. As for your comment about the wargames, I'm not really sure I get your point- are you suggesting that I don't play wargames? Hmm...read next week's column.

I _knew_ I'd take some flak for picking FFG stuff...who the fuck cares, they just put out the best stuff this year- I think it's their best year yet.

"Slumming angel"...ha ha!

Jeb said...

Could one of the folks allowed to post at BGG please start reviewing games over there with a tag of "Ameritrash_Review" or something? I can't wait til year end or when a pet game appears here to find out what's hawt. Should I just GeekBuddy folks and see if they are reviewing stuff? That's what I could do with Barnes' reviews--I knew where he stood and could count on him to see games from that perspective.

I see a game like Return of the Heroes--and I don't know if I'm Buy, Hold, or Sell on that. I think I'm Buy, right? But then a game like Race for the Galaxy comes out and sounds like it should rock, but turns out to be turdish.

Help a brother out, F:AT!

Michael Barnes said...

Here, I'll help you out. Buy RotH. It's great. It's very Euro in a way, but it plays out like some kind of stripped down MERCHANT OF VENUS meets MAGIC REALM. I think it's a great AT-compatible Euro. Yes to the expansions too.

Mr Zir said...

Good job Michael, it was a good short-and-simple summary of the best games over the past year. I am intested in knowing what you thought were the runner-ups in each of the categories, other than the expansion and reprint which you already mentioned.

Michael

mtlawson said...

Michael, did they EVER fix the rulebook on RotH? At least for Dungeoneer, you could download some PDFs with the current rules (and of course, wargames have the living rules market cornered).

You might want to mention that caveat when recommending RotH.

Oh, and nice list.

Bring on the Trashies!!!

--Mike L.

Frank Branham said...

And still you diss Prophecy. On the plus side, this is proably the first post to mention Mudhoney, so you get lots of points for that.

Pity Through the Ages didn't make it out this year.

And you've still not played Galaxy Trucker. That might be my favorite Euro of the year. You MIGHT like it, that whole speed jigsaw puzzle thing is polarizing. It seems like what Bruno Faidutti calls a "women's game" except for the exploding space ship part.

bill abner said...

juniper, funny story -- that line wasn't even in the original column. It was in an email exchange Michael and I had after he submitted it. He made that analogy and I just had to throw it in.

Jur said...

I've played a few of the 2007 euro releases now and they are mostly fine, but not very inspiring. Cuba, Hamburgum, Amytis are more of the same. That is not bad in itself, but does not necessarily justify the hype.

I wouldn't be surprised if in due time some Ameritrash design (either in theme or mechanics) filters back into euros.

My vote for best euro 2007 so far goes to Tribune, with lots of interaction, an interesting mix of mechanisms and good replayability. Not sure whether it's the saviour of euroland, though.

But like Ubarose said a few months back, we'd better leave the final decision on games of 2007 till later in 2008.

I look forward to seeing which games will be resigned to the Island of Misfit Games!

Michael Barnes said...

It's true- Bill Abner demonstrated his world-class editing skills by taking a statement I made in private conversation(in response to the "Euros suck" line) and shoehorning it into the article. Nice work, Bill. It just dawned on me when we were corresponding that it was a good analogy.

Mr. Zir- I thought about doing runners-up, but I wanted to cut right to it, you know? I did want to slate PROPHECY in there somewhere (whaddya mean "dissing", Frank?) but I wanted the Euro category to be a "true" Euro and it's really a reprint. But I'd say it was one of the better releases that made the top cut. As for Euros, I liked FIRE AND AXE and DUEL IN THE DARK a lot, but they're so rarely played by my group it was hard to really warrant putting them up there. I'd say that CIA VS. KGB was a pretty nice surprise, a fun little 2 player Blackjack thing that I somehow can never win. I dunno...I'm really interested in seeing what you guys thought was the best this year.

Like I said in the article, this was an odd year because I didn't play every damn game that came out. When you've got a retail store, wholesale prices on everything, and 8-12 hours a day to play games it's a lot easier to hit everything, even the lesser titles and also-rans. Now, I mostly hit the high points and stick to things I at least think I'm going to dig. I think moving into 2008 you're going to see a lot more wargame stuff coming from me since that's kind of where my gaming heart is at right now and also because I didn't have nearly enough opportunities to get with Billy Motion (my one friend who realy gets into "serious" wargames) to play some NAPOLEON'S TRIUMPH and those other great looking games.

I dunno...I'm really kind of practicing what I preach- going after games with very high replayability and maximizing my enjoyment of those and eschewing the amassing of an unnecessarily bloated collection.

Lawson- Yeah, the RotH rulebook is a total disaster. It doesn't tell you how to play the game.

Jur- I think we're already starting to see the European designers start to take some things in exchange from AT games...even with DUST, which is designed by the guy that did KALEIDOS and a couple of other totally fluffy Euros, there's a definite attempt to integrate some mechanics like multi-use cards and role selection into the Gamemaster style game. TRIBUNE seems to bring social interaction elements back to the Euro fold, which is definitely a good thing. And I don't think the success of games like WAR OF THE RING, NEUROSHIMA HEX, THROUGH THE AGES, SHOGUN/WALLENSTEIN, TWILIGHT STRUGGLE (or 1960, if you must) and even (for better or worse) those rondel games is going unnoticed. I think in 2008 we're going to see more reciprocal crossover, which could be very interesting. I hope that we'll see Euro designers slough off their fear of wargames and wargaming elements and incorporate those ideas into their designs.

Whatever happens over the next year, I really hope that we see a shift away from what I've been calling the "BGG-style" games- the PUERTO RICO/PRINCES OF FLORENCE/CAYLUS derived games. I think they've actually become more prominent than the Knizia-style games that were in vogue just a couple of years back.

Frank- has a boardgaming article _ever_ mentioned Mudhoney?

Frank Branham said...

I'm still kind of unclear on what a "Euro" is, as it varies so much depending on who is doing the Naming.

Euro-ish elements have been showing up in AT-style games for years. Problem is, a lot of those games never made it to the US.

I'd suggest taking a look at Serenissima--which features cool plastic ships, a clearly Settlers-based resource cube thing. It nicely integrates cube fetishes with outright piracy, combat, and pretty rude behavior.

Or just play anything by Phil Eklund. His games are the most frighteningly simulational and complex games ever--some even to the point of unplayability. But they tend to use mostly Euro-like mechanics.

He even did a dungeon crawl, which I have sadly yet to play. It involves a party of bugs, and allows you to upgrade your bug by mutating it on the spot. All of the wacky mutant powers are heavily grounded in realistic things that bugs do, just not all in the same bug.

andy malcolm said...

"Michael, did they EVER fix the rulebook on RotH?"

there are at least 2 "fixed" versions of the rulebook on BGG. they make the game completely playable.

100%Blade said...

Interesting list Michael if only that I have hardly played any of them. Starcraft tempts me but my gaming life simply does not allow enough time for games of that length to justify me spending that sort of money.

I'm not ashamed to say that the majority of things I am playing is still very much Eurobased. I suspect that is because (other than Age of Steam) I actually don't have any inclination to play anything more than a few times and my itch is still scratched by the 'newness' rather than the desire to re-play something over and over again. I guess that makes me a bad person :)

My favourite game of the year to date is In the Year of the Dragon. You won't like it but it's good enough for at least another 5 or 6 plays for me yet. The game I've had most laughs with is definitely Galaxy Trucker but I suspect it won't last too long.

I didn't like Thebes at all - I must be one of the few that actually thinks that the attempt at theme is as naff as any of the other Eurogames. It just feels like drawing tiles out of a bag to me.

p.s Love the Pixies but hated Mudhoney.

mtlawson said...

Andy--

That's great and all, but did the company ever release a fixed version? The Nova rules are very straightforward, but they're a labor of love.

The rules for RotH remind me of reading the rules for the old PC game Castles, where the rules were dispensed by a castle builder speaking to a knight.

--Mike L.

Mr Skeletor said...

I just love how the most virulent of Eurto-haters, in this case Mr. Barnes, totally overlooks the fact that his holy AT brand is being watered down by the very Euro-ness he claims to hate. Euros bad! Except, of course, when that's most of what StarCraft is made of. Then it's genius!

Are you talking about that "starcraft" game which involves nothing but beating other players forces mercilessly from turn one and focuses on nothing but combat? That game has as much to do with Euro's as my balls have to do with your mom's chin.

Quack quack quack, do you people even think before you talk?

I'd skip RoTH and go with prophecy, it's the stronger, more replayable game.

Loved your pick's Mike, you may be developing some real taste after all. Fuck this "bet you haven't played all the Euro's this year so you can't judge..." bullshit. Why waste time with something you know is going to bore you shitless? If Agricola is the best the Euro could come up with this year then I know I haven't missed anything.

andy malcolm said...

"That's great and all, but did the company ever release a fixed version? "

supposedly the first expansion has better rules, but i haven't picked that up.

i don't really see that it matters whether it's an official rulebook or not though, so long as the rules are accurate, and as far as i can tell, they are.

Matt Thrower said...

Could one of the folks allowed to post at BGG please start reviewing games over there with a tag of "Ameritrash_Review" or something?

I still post reviews over at BGG, although I'm usually many months behind the market for the "next big thing" for the very good reason that I'd rather wait and see if there's any justification to hype before I shell out hard-earned cash. And that goes for Euro and AT releases alike.

Paul DiStefano (Geosphere) has also posted a big chunk of BGG reviews with an Ameritrash spin.

Matt Thrower said...

Nice article with some excellent picks and commentary. I can't imagine Descent will do much but suck no matter how many expansions get put out though. How does the old expression go ... "You can't polish a turd" ...

I keep humming and hawing over whether to pick up Thebes, but you might have just convinced me.

I can't help but muse that you must've been fucking desperate for picks to include a "reprinted game of the year category". Hannibal deserves a spot somewhere though.

adrianbolt said...

Shame on you Michael for expressing an opinion in a review. You're not supposed to show that you have a personality. And don't you know that a review should just repeat the rules and end with a minor passive-aggressive indication of how much you liked it. N.B You cannot dislike a game, merely like it a teensy, teensy bit!

Hey, I'm struggling to make a comment since I haven't played any of the games you mentioned. As you know, I like your opinions raw and unfiltered. And thanks for the absence of those irritating pop-up links that always make me skip to the next paragraph, you (or the sites editor) have no idea how annoying they are.

Give The Red Whoopee Cushion a raspberry for me (I think that translates into a Bronx cheer?)

Michael Barnes said...

Frank mentioned the Phil Eklund games...that prompted me to go order some...they look really interesting, in ORIGINS you start out with these maps of proto-human brains and you go all the way up the evolutionary chain to today. LORDS OF THE RENAISSANCE has a Vlad Tepes counter, so I'm pretty much sold there as well.

100% Blade- I think you'd be surprised that STARCRAFT, with players who have a game or two under their belt, can easily come in under three (possibly two and a half) hours. It's a really compact system. The three player game in particular is worth your attention and it's easy to pull it off in two hours. It is very Euro in a lot of ways, I think you'd really appreciate the tightness of the design.

As for THEBES- you're right, the theme isn't really any less naff than any other Euro. All these hoo-hah about thematic it is is mostly bullshit from folks who aren't used to playing games that have a lick of theme to begin with.

Matt- I did feel a little desperate for picks...like I said, most of what I played this year wound up in one bucket or the other. I thought a reprint category was appropriate since we're seeing so many these days. And it's a good way to keep attention on the vitality of older titles.

Adrian- It is wrong to dislike a popular game. Recently over at BGG, I read a helpful article that made me see how wrong I was about RACE FOR THE GALAXY called "RftG Hating 101". From now on, I will stick to rules summaries and indicating which Eurogames the title in question resembles and all will end with the phrase "It wasn't my cup of tea, but if you like this sort of game then you will likely enjoy it."

Frank Branham said...

Someone is selling Origins?

The game by him I most want to try and tear through is The Artifact. It is a 4 player, quadruple blind almost LARP-ish boardgame that requires a game master. Tons of prep required, and rules scattered in three different places.

He assembled it from spare copies of a strange solitaire mini-wargame, with the Artifact rules in 5 seperate little booklets that reference the original rules. Looks intense. And brilliant.

Ken B. said...

That "RftG" thing was (unintentionally) hilarious. It was all "This is why your opinion is wrong." The man was working up a sermon; 'twas a shame to interrupt him.


Can you imagine someone posting a "Risk variant haters" thing just like that? Telling them why they're wrong about games like Risk 2210 or the Star Wars variants? They'd be dogpiled so quickly your head would spin. Yet this guy was able to blather about how everyone but him was wrong and he got mostly pats on the back.


DOUCHEBAGGERY FTW~!



The other (unintentionally) hilarious thing recently was, when someone pointed out that people were negatively shilling 1960 and I pointed out the irony about the lack of frothing backlash from the BGG faithful, some dude told me "time to move on."


Dude, sure, I'll move on, but...uh... IT'S STILL AN ISSUE. Seeing the inverse and being confronted with the irony apparently merits sticking your head up your own ass and blatant dismissals.


I'm wrapping up a few loose ends on BGG and I'm done. At least for a while.

Ken B. said...

Oh, and GOOD GOD, praise be for the "ignore user" thing on BGG.

100%Blade said...

I have a copy of Origins but I have now read the rules 4 times and still can't make any sense of them. Republic of Rome and Magic Realm are a doddle compared to this beauty. Still I can continue to look and just hope that someday I will meet someone who actually knows how to play and can teach me.

I'm also now slightly confused about Stracraft. If it is "very Euro in a lot of ways" (Michael’s comments) does that mean Mr.Skeletor’s balls and my mother's chin are connected?

Michael

Ryan Walberg said...

100%blade: More or less, but he had it backwards and a little off... your balls, *Frank's* chin. Thwap, thwap, thwap.

Mike said...

If Agricola is the best the Euro could come up with this year then I know I haven't missed anything.

Agricola is not the best Euro to come out this year. You still may not have missed anything.

Juniper said...

Agricola is not the best Euro to come out this year. You still may not have missed anything.

They still make Eurogames?

Michael Barnes said...

I'm also now slightly confused about Stracraft. If it is "very Euro in a lot of ways" (Michael’s comments) does that mean Mr.Skeletor’s balls and my mother's chin are connected?

No. I'm exaggerating to get you to give it a chance. It's like when my dad told me that broccoli tastes like my favorite steak sauce.

Michael Barnes said...

That's not true, really...I think it'd be kind of silly to completely dismiss the Euro influence on STARCRAFT. The way the resource management works (complete with worker assignment) is pure Euro. The building/upgrading feels sort of Euro-ish. There's also a level of refinement and streamlining that definitely has its roots in Euro design styles. But the CCG element, the plastic, and the smashmouth combat almost cancels all that out.

100%Blade said...

It's not the AT vs Euro thing that puts me off. I have plenty of AT stuff around that I'm more than happy to play but most of it sits on my shelf because they are too long to get to the table. I take what you say about getting through a game in 2-3 hours (which is fine) but I remain unconvinced & I guess I just don't want it enough (yet) to splash out on it

Kevin Heckman said...

Bah. I just had the temerity to post my first review -- a harsh one of Balloon Cup, and I got criticized for being "subjective." When-o-when are the F:AT forums going online?

Ken B. said...

Kevin, you picked the wrong game to pick on! Why do that, when you can post an utter piece of shit review slamming Starcraft and get over 80 thumbs for it? Efficiency, man, efficiency!

Rliyen said...

Bah. I just had the temerity to post my first review -- a harsh one of Balloon Cup, and I got criticized for being "subjective." When-o-when are the F:AT forums going online?

Don't you looove condescension in the morning?

I thought it was a very good review. Brutal, but very good. With the way ONE PERSON was reacting in the comment thread, he made it out like you were sodomizing the designer's poodle with pinking shears.

Overreaction, the soup du jour over at the 'Geek.

NeonPeon said...

Kevin, I wonder if anyone got the reference in your review's title. (My wife forced me to watch that accursed video - gah.)

I gave you a thumbs-up just for that. :)

Michael Barnes said...

It goes back to the problem of familiarity on BGG. If everybody knew and hung out with Michael Bay or Uwe Bolle, they'd be much less critical of them and more critical of people who have negative comments about them.

Kevin Heckman said...

One guy mentioned the reference in the title. I don't know if it's better or worse that more of the Get-Along Gang didn't notice it.

Interestingly, the designer posted a reply and was pretty philosophical about it. Apparently he has the crazy idea that criticism is just par for the course when you do anything publicly -- a notion that his bandwagon could stand to contemplate.

adrianbolt said...

michael barnes said...
"Recently over at BGG, I read a helpful article that made me see how wrong I was about RACE FOR THE GALAXY called "RftG Hating 101"
Yes, that one was hilarious, we don't dislike a game we just have a failure of understanding and appreciation. I feel so sorry for Monopoly, all those decades passing and still no one realises the extraordinary depth and subtlety it has. (And those old wooden houses were almost cube shaped; just think, some clever German removed the roof and Eurogaming was born.)

ken b. said...
"Oh, and GOOD GOD, praise be for the "ignore user" thing on BGG."
I don't think my suggestion for the flipside - hiding my posts FROM user x - was appreciated.

kevin heckman said...
"I just had the temerity to post my first review -- a harsh one of Balloon Cup, and I got criticized for being 'subjective'."
You used the word "Ameritrash". After that you were doomed.

jr said...

"I just had the temerity to post my first review ... and I got criticized for being "subjective." "

The clash between "objective reviews" vs. subjective reviews is weird. I agree with you guys that being subjective is the whole point.

In some ways I can see the temptation for "objective reviewing": you think you can see all the points of view, so you try to cater to all those points of view in one review. If this worked, it would save some time, since a curious reader would only have to consult one review instead of many reviews to find an opinion similar to his own tastes.

But objective reviews seem arrogant because you will never fully understand the other side's point of view. So you will never really be able to give as good comments as the other side. (Maybe reviewers like Tom Vasel try to review objectively by liking everything?)

Also the objective reviews end up bland since you are trying to please everyone. You can't express even your own true opinion strongly.

Objective reviewing could still be valuable since you might understand the other side a little better (usually a good thing). But it doesnt make for a very good review.

Frank Branham said...

Michael: I can KIND of see the idea that Starcraft has Euro elements.

But I think we are confusing "Euro" with "well developed", and "succinct", and possibly "clever".

Caveman is all of those, is published partially by a company that only does Euros, is distributed by that bastion of Euros, Funagain, and comes from Europe. Caveman ain't a Euro.

MWChapel said...

Blogger Michael Barnes said...

Frank mentioned the Phil Eklund games...that prompted me to go order some...they look really interesting, in ORIGINS you start out with these maps of proto-human brains and you go all the way up the evolutionary chain to today.


Origins is an interesting simulation. Maybe too "realistic". Player neutering is the norm if you even play even in the slightest bit inefficient. But it's true to history, as only one species prevailed. You may like it, as there is a lot of player hosage and evil maneuvering. It runs a tad long, and even longer if you become a hmm,hmm..."Guest Worker" society. But it has some cool stuff going on.

Jur said...

If Michael can spell the word contextualise, he is way ahead of most people on BGG, but actually accepting that no review is ever subjective will never occur to them.

Although some level of objectivity is helpful to the reader of a review, subjectivity is no problem as long as you are open about it. "I like Ameritrash and I think Puerto Rico sucks" is very helpful to other AT fans, while eurosnoots (and others that enjoy euros) can ignore it.

The problem with the eurosnoots on BGG is that they rationalise that their subjectivity is somehow the best and therefor objective. It's up to you to ignore them totally or get aggravated by their stupendous arrogance. As a last resort you can use their opinions and keep in mind what they are and try to filter out the useful information.

Sad thing of course is that they won't leave you alone when your opinion of their favourite game hurts their precious feelings. Then there is nothing left is to laugh at them.

The less time wasted on them here, the better.

wnorris said...

Its seems to me that an "objective" review should simply be a description of the game and its rules. A review by definition should be subjective and include opinions and analysis, good or bad. Perhaps instead of on-going debate, BGG needs to institute a new category "game description" in place of the seemingly oxymoronic "objective review."

Come to think about it, if objectivity is the ideal, aren't those little judgemental thumbs and rating stars hypocritical?

WN

wnorris said...

Good article. I've picked Cutthroat Cavern off the gamestore shelf a few times and thought it sounded pretty good. I'm just not sure my gaming pals will go for it.

WN

adrianbolt said...

Why is it objective vs subjective? Wouldn't the ideal be to be objective in your description of the basic rules and subjective in your opinion of them? Don't tell me - there's a social contract banning subjectiveness in reviews! (I can say banning without fear of banning can't I?)

Thanks for recommending 30 Days of Night in an earlier post, I'd never have checked it out otherwise and I enjoyed it.

MrSkeletor said...

That's not true, really...I think it'd be kind of silly to completely dismiss the Euro influence on STARCRAFT. The way the resource management works (complete with worker assignment) is pure Euro. The building/upgrading feels sort of Euro-ish. There's also a level of refinement and streamlining that definitely has its roots in Euro design styles.

You forgot OPENING THE BOX. Why, that is PURE EURO too.

Fuck me, what a lot of crap. Building upgrades are Euro-ish? WTF? I guess heroquest musty be a euro too since I have to RESOURCE MANAGE my gold.

Bollocks to that.

Branham is 100% on the ball. Anything that doesn't come from the 1980's gets slapped with the "Euro" title these days. It's garbage.

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

MrSkeletor said...


Fuck me, what a lot of crap. Building upgrades are Euro-ish? WTF? I guess heroquest musty be a euro too since I have to RESOURCE MANAGE my gold.

Bollocks to that.

I agree with you Skelly. StarCraft is totally not close to the quality of a true euro. Is the same AT crap I was playing in 1994 when I was playing "Legions of Steel" YAWN. Been there and done that(over and over and over again 15 years ago). And StarCraft doesn't even do it as well as LoS.

No I'll not even mark that kind of over stylized, under developed rehashed gruel in the same ballpark as a real sophisticated "euro".

That we are in agreement on.

bill abner said...

Highly critical reviews are always, always, more beneficial to the reader if the review itself is honest.

If people are truly using a review to form an opinion on whether or not to buy something -- anything --then being as critical as possible is doing that potential buyer a real service. If not, then it's window dressing.

The subjective/objective review debate makes no sense to me whatsoever.

vandemonium said...


Anonymous the red phantom said...

I just love how the most virulent of Eurto-haters, in this case Mr. Barnes, totally overlooks the fact that his holy AT brand is being watered down by the very Euro-ness he claims to hate. Euros bad! Except, of course, when that's most of what StarCraft is made of. Then it's genius!


Nice article Mr. B. Screw the real haters. The ones who can't seem to actually read what you write or understand that "virulent Eurto-haters" completely misses the point. I am not sure WTF a Eurto is btw is that some new f'n sub-genre?

BTW - I liked Bush and Silverchair. Just because they weren't the Pixes - (I'm also in the can't stand mudhoney camp) doesn't mean that some of their music wasn't fun. Much the same was said of Kiss (the Monopoly of Rock bands I think) and Led Zeppelin in the 70's eh?

But your point does stand I think. While innovation seems to be lacking, there are some decent lighter games out there. So long as you don't start down any NĂ¼ Metal comparisons I'm wit ya homie.

Your Euro Leaning Pal,
Van

simon said...

Adrian Bolt said "Why is it objective vs subjective? Wouldn't the ideal be to be objective in your description of the basic rules and subjective in your opinion of them?"

That's actually what they teach you in school.

mtlawson said...

Yep, they do teach you that in school (at least they used to).
The problem as I see it is the difference between reports generated for high school vs. college.

When I was a student (lo these many years ago), if you wrote a term paper in high school you essentially regurgitated facts and organized all of the opinions in a nice, neat format. If you wrote a term paper in college, you were expected to take a stand and defend your position. Sure, there were the equivalent high school term papers in college, but the professors I had wanted me to think and demonstrate a command of the topic by taking a position and defending it. This was true no matter if it were a discussion of a Henry James novel, a dissection of the events surrounding Valley Forge, or whether you could conclusively demonstrate the Photoelectric Effect.

If you're going to take a stand, take a stand and defend it. I may think you're an ass for your opinion, but at least defend the damn thing. There are reviewers on BGG or CSW that make me gnash my teeth because I think they're full of it, but I have to give them credit for going full bore with an opinion on something and then backing it up with facts and observation.

--Mike L.

RobertB said...

...The cards just didn’t have the variety of actions that the previous game offered and the narrative overall felt weak. It’s not a bad game though, and I think there are some interesting design ideas on display (like the way the debates are depicted) but it just isn’t much fun and it simply feels like too much was abstracted in order to appeal to gamers who favor mechanics over theme.

To me, a lot of the mechanisms that were eliminated from 1960 that were in TS seem to have been eliminated for thematic reasons, rather than simply to strip away chrome. For example, coups and region scoring make no sense, given the theme of 1960, so I don't miss them. Only the designer knows for sure though.

ubarose said...

Frank, thanks for the info that Funagain is going to distribute Caveman. I so want this game to be as awesome as it sounds. Have you played it?

the red phantom said...

I *still* don't understand how StarCraft's combat system is "smashmouth." Help me out here. It's the most tame combat system from an ostensibly AT game I've ever played. This coming from someone who wishes it were more "smashmouth."

Merkles Boner said...

1) Considering I like most of the AT games recommended here, Return of the Heroes is one that I just don't get. My son loves it--so its good for that--but it truly strikes me as an exercise in moving stuff around with little tension or interaction. Yes--I understand all about going around to power up to defeat the evil guy at the end and that its a race at the heart of it. For what its worth, I just don't get this game. It may be because I also don't get most role playing games, either

2) As far as writing critical reviews and the nature of college writing: Well, I can tell you that it may be an ideal that students learn how to write that way, but for the most part, its a dream. Sure, good profs will still push for such writing--but most students avoid professors who push them in that way. They want an easy but interesting prof. They don't want to work to improve writing--b/c for the most part they don't view it as a marketable skill. College is to get a degree and get a job. Learning something is of minor importance in most of the humanities and social sciences. The sciences can usually hold out much better on these issues without student complaints.

A critical review, of course, does not necessarily mean a negative review. I'm sure most of you know this--but its worth reiterating. Critical analysis also stems from the reviewer's own perspective.

Mr Skeletor said...

What do you mean by "smashmouth"?

ubarose said...

I kind of agree with Merkles. Return of the Heroes is a fun family game. I enjoy playing it with a mixed group of adults and kids. However, it is not something I would play with a group of adults. If I have that much time and a group interested in a fantasy themed game, I'd probably choose something else.

Sarah said...

I'm surprised your biggest disappointment of the year didn't go to BattleLore based on how much you guys despised that game (can't remember if it was Michael that wrote that review or not)

For me, choosing my games of the year really depends on what I play that year, not the *new* games that came out - what is new to me if you well.

In that case Descent became my came of the year with the edition of the expansions. I got Well of Darkness last Christmas but only got to play with it once until this past September where I've gotten to play several more times now. I just picked up the Altar of Despair expansion but haven't played with that yet. But no matter which expansion you play with they drastically improve the game. There's just so much more for the Overlord to do than spawn monsters/set up the board.

The best "euros" I played weren't really even "euros" but family style games: Ingenious and Can't Stop. Can't Stop being a pretty old game, but it was a big hit with my wife, my bro and my sis-in-law. Blue Moon City was also a big hit in that category.

Casey said...

Sorry, that comment posted under "sarah" is really me. Don't want any gender confusion, was accidentally logged in as my wife.

Juniper said...

Sorry for hijacking this thread, but Happy Trashmas, everyone.

NeonPeon said...

Happy Trashmas, Juniper and everyone. :D

I got Heroscape for my teenaged, video game freak of a cousin, and Quest for the Dragonlords for my bro (his favorite game is Arkham Horror). I wouldn't have considered Quest if not for the interview here - the designer seemed to have his heart in the right place. :)

vandemonium said...

Ha ha ha! Happy Trashmas to one and all!

xoxo
Van

mtlawson said...

And to all, much Trash!!

(Boy, where's Oscar when you need him?)

--Mike L.

notbillysparkles said...

LOL!

Happy Trashmas indeed.

Now that I'm feeling all tingly, and filled with the X-mas spirit and shit I dedicate this, the greatest Christmas song ever written-- not to mention the only one that's ever brought a tear to my eye.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltiY-BqvOIU


Happy Holidays y'all,

Billy Z.

adrainbolt said...

simon said...
"That's actually what they teach you in school."
Just take the obvious insult as read.

adrianbolt said...

simon said...
"That's actually what they teach you in school."
Just take the obvious insult as read.

adrianbolt said...

Great! So how do I delete the fist one?

adrianbolt said...

It's a day for misspelling isn't it?
Someone delete the first, third, and fourth...

vialiy said...

Merry Trashmas!

For Trashmas I want a new thread with a Trashmas photoshop from Chapel.

Frank Branham said...

Herr Sparkles:
I do like Fairytale of New York quite a bit. And I have a complete set of Pogues discs. It doesn't compare to this, however:

http://mrdankelly.vox.com/library/post/porn-orchard-this-holiday-season.html


Uba:
I've played Caveman twice. I like it in an old school Milton Bradley way. It is just a wee bit abstract, but it does contain lots of meanness. I actually suspect that the game gets better and better as you approach the 6 player limit.

Boardgamenews has a decent review. And my Friday blog there last week was about this, and the lack of MB-style games this year.

ubarose said...

Thanks Frank. I had some folks over to play games today, and told them I was thinking of getting Caveman. Their response was, "Dinosaurs. Hell, yeah!"

MrSkeletor said...

I'm surprised your biggest disappointment of the year didn't go to BattleLore based on how much you guys despised that game (can't remember if it was Michael that wrote that review or not)

You are probably referring to my review.
Either way battlelore was released last year.

Mikoyan said...

There's a posting there asking if Agricola may be rated too high...

Why do I somehow expect pitchforks and torches?

simon said...

adrianbolt said...
simon said...
"That's actually what they teach you in school."
Just take the obvious insult as read.

Sorry, didn't mean to insult you.

Ted Torgerson said...

I think moving into 2008 you're going to see a lot more wargame stuff coming from me since that's kind of where my gaming heart is at right now and also because I didn't have nearly enough opportunities to get with Billy Motion (my one friend who realy gets into "serious" wargames) to play some NAPOLEON'S TRIUMPH and those other great looking games.

Oh this sounds awesome!

adrianbolt said...

simon said...
"Sorry, didn't mean to insult you."
Sorry, couldn't see any other way to interpret it! All I was trying to indicate was that it seems a very black and white way of looking at it, objective or subjective. Colour me shades of grey.

NeonPeon said...

Happy trash year (new trash?)! Any gaming-related resolutions? Mine will be to host regular gaming sessions - maybe biweekly. My game playing has been far too sporadic, and tends to be limited to family occasions lately. It was so much easier to get people together before I got married, friends started having babies, etc. :)

simon said...

adrianbolt said...
simon said...
"Sorry, didn't mean to insult you."
Sorry, couldn't see any other way to interpret it! All I was trying to indicate was that it seems a very black and white way of looking at it, objective or subjective. Colour me shades of grey.

All I meant to say is that in school you get taught to write a comment or composition with a objective body and a subjective conclusion.

Anonymous said...

I find peculiar your insistence that the era of Euros is over. I've chalked it up to wishful thinking on your part, because there is truly no evidence to your claims.

Michael Barnes said...

OMG you're right. The counterevidence which you provided, Anonymous, is so overwhelming that my argument has literally melted away before the heat of empirical truth.

druenkree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hello all, how is everybody?

Anonymous said...

Hi everybody, I just want to say hello! How is everyone??