Wednesday, December 30, 2015


We live in a weird era. Not just in board games, but in general.

For the last few weeks, my social media feeds have been filled with spoilers for The Force Awakens, but most of my friends have been good about leaving long spoiler spaces or using spoiler tags (where available) to avoid ruining the movie for those of us who haven't seen it, yet. Other people are out there deliberately spoiling the movie because they are trolls.  Some people are spreading false spoilers because they think that's funny (and sometimes it is).

But the net result for me has been that everyone is talking about Star Wars, but no-one is ... talking about Star Wars.

There is a Doctor Who character, River Song, whose catch phrase is "Spoilers." Because she's not tied to the same timeline as everyone else in the same way, and so she knows some of what is going to happen in everyone else's future.

Fair warning: There may be spoilers for T.I.M.E. Stories in this post. I'll leave a space before I hit that point, and I'll mark it in advance and then format it to indent as a quote so you can try to avoid spoilers (if you're trying to avoid spoilers).

That is, it'll look like this.
A few years ago, Risk Legacy was released on an unsuspecting public. It's a board game based on Risk, so hardcore gamers are "supposed" to hate on it (because Risk isn't actually all that great). But this game is ... different.  In the box is a rulebook, some cards, some units, and a collection of sealed envelopes and boxes that tell you "Open When ... "

The contents of these envelopes have you permanently altering your game. You'll mark the map up. You'll destroy cards. I don't want to spoil this for anyone, but it's really cool. And I still twitch just thinking about it. Because you destroy game components.

Earlier this year, Pandemic Legacy was released, and it's much like Risk Legacy, where things unlock and change based on your success or failure during the game. New characters appear, things get destroyed, and it's apparently awesome.  The similarity is not a coincidence,either. The same designer worked on both games.

Collectively, these are being called "Legacy-Type Games" and elements of the game that are destroyed or altered are being called "Legacy Components," which makes sense.

Another game released this year is T.I.M.E. Stories. It's a "decksploration" game. It initially caught a lot of flak from players due to a low replayability. I disagree, but then my memory isn't fantastic. But there is one element that is "Legacy."

Depending on how you do in the first scenario, you will be directed to lift the insert, where some "beacons" are hidden. To use them, it tells you to "Break them open," apply their effect, and then discard them.
When we were working on the game, we didn't know what kind of component this "hidden" piece was going to be. It sounded like they were going to be plastic (or enclosed in plastic), but we weren't sure. And - having seen later scenarios - that "discard" was intended to be a Legacy-style discard. As in "remove it completely from your box. Throw it away. It's done." Another thing we didn't know at the time.
I'm guessing it's not that clear in French, either, because the translator didn't change it or flag it as something in need of special attention - and the translator in question is someone I've worked with a lot, and he's usually very good about highlighting possible questions like that so that we can be very clear about the rules. 
Either way, there was an official comment made about it here
The "in-game" justification for their single-use/Legacy nature is probably expense. The TIME agency is powerful, but sending folks back in time is expensive. When you fail at the various scenarios, the NPCs at home base gripe at you and how much you're costing the agency. 

I'd love to take the sole blame for this, but it wasn't just me. The translator didn't know. And at least one other person read over the game prior to its release, and they didn't change what the translator and I had done with it. So I'll take partial blame and move on.

This same element is mentioned in the first expansion, The Marcy Case. And in the next, The Prophecy of Dragons.  It wasn't until the third expansion, Under the Mask, that the Legacy nature of these items was made clear to me.

Even setting aside the "Legacy" or "Not Legacy" element of this component, the game is phenomenal. At least one reviewer has likened it to one of the old LucasArts click-based adventure games like Maniac Mansion or Full Throttle. Only without the humor. The first two scenarios are dark.

The one that is included with the box is set in an insane asylum in the early/mid 20th Century. Not a good time to be among the mentally ill. 

The reason the replayability is reported to be so low is because once you know how to beat the game, you can just do the walkthrough of "Go to Location X and perform Action Y. Then go to Location Z ..." But my memory isn't great these days, so I can replay the same scenario several times. And I have enough folks that I game with regularly that I can also serve as facilitator and not actually play.

I - by the way - really like the game. In theory. I haven't been able to get it to the table, though.

Maybe this New Year's Eve ...

Which reminds me: We are doing the usual "Game All Night At Phoenix Games" thing. We'd love to have you join us to play some awesome games with some awesome people.  Event details are here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

That Big Consolidation News

So news broke this week that Asmodee US, Days of Wonder (DoW), and Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) are all consolidating as Asmodee North America. And it's HUGE news in the industry, because Asmodee is huge. But this really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone after Asmodee bought DoW and merged with FFG last year.

What is a surprise is their stance with regards to internet sales of product.  This thread and several others have popped up with all kinds of speculation. Because Asmodee North America doesn't want their games sold online.  They believe in supporting the FLGS, which I am all in favor of.

I should emphasize this: I have no insider information, here.  I'm as in the dark as the rest of you.  But I know a number of the people involved, and I trust them.

Even as a huge support of the local game store as the center of the gaming world, I still disagree with the ban of online sales. There are numerous folks who don't have local game stores. Not only that, but I don't think the ban won't stop online sales over the long term. With Asmodee North America slipping into the mass market via Target (among others), the product will be findable on Target's site.

By the way, it's not a complete ban, as ICV2 pointed out in a later article.
... retailers, unless they have a separate agreement with Asmodee NA, can no longer sell any Asmodee NA products online. Only retailers that have an agreement with Asmodee NA to sell online will be able to do so ...
Does anyone out there think that Amazon isn't already in negotiations? Or any of the major online game retailers? Hell, they may already have signed contracts in hand.

I suspect the final outcome will be similar to what Mayfair did a few years ago:

Mayfair restricted online sales of their product. More accurately, they restricted discounts on their online sales. People went nuts, predicting the end of Mayfair as a company and suggesting that this was the end for Catan.  But it seems to have worked.  Even Amazon's lowest price on Catan is only about 10% off of MAP, where previously you could find it for 30-40% off MAP.

And Mayfair (and Catan) are still trucking along.

::EDIT:: This post on BGG News went live after my post was written, but before it went live. There is some good information in the post, and I recommend reading it. It clarifies some things and highlights a few others. ::END EDIT::

So how will the consolidation impact me personally?

I don't know.  One article I linked to above specifically calls out that the three companies' creative teams will continue to operate separately.  So Asmodee's team will keep working on Asmodee's games, Fantasy Flight's teams will work on Fantasy Flight's games, and so on.  Which means that my work as part of the translation team will probably be unaffected.

But GenCon?  I don't know. I've been blessed with more than a decade as one of Asmodee's demo guys, and it's been the best decade of my life. I hope that I'm not done, there. I hope that things will continue as they have. But I don't know - it's out of my hands. And it always has been out of my hands.

So we'll see.

Regardless of what happens, I'll still be here, typing away.

Oh - and Merry Christmas, all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Microbadges and the BoardGameGeek Support Drive

I realized recently: I have a ton of Microbadges on Boardgamegeek.

I mean seriously: Look at those.  That is crazy. Yes, a lot of those are contest microbadges, but a lot of them aren't.

The contest microbadges are from a time when contests were significantly less-common than they are today. And I've never won a single contest, there, either.  Some day. If I'm very lucky.

Most of the rest of them, I've paid for by using 8 "GeekGold," which is a currency for the site. A few of them were purchased with Microbadge Coupons, which the site gives out on Christmas (or has for the last few years, at least).

But there are a couple of categories that don't fit into either group.  "Award," which is given for contributions on the site; "Special," which are given for a variety of reasons, most of which are for the 'Geek's occasional charitable events; and, finally, "Support."

The "Award" category is one where I should be doing better. I'm only a Copper-level Session Reporter (where people write up game sessions), a Copper-level File Uploader (for people who upload helpful files), and a Copper-level Geeklister (for people who put together lists of games grouped around a theme). I'm a Silver-level Image Uploader (and this will be getting better soon). But these are all awards given for simply contributing to the site and making it a better place, because they all require that you not only contribute, but also that people give you "thumbs" for your contribution, meaning they think it's a good contribution.

The "Special" category is one where I never know when something will pop up. There are annual auctions for the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund, but I don't always participate. And I don't know if the latest ones have included a microbadge, either. So I'd do better, there, but I really can't.

The last category is the one I want to talk about today.

BoardGameGeek is an important community for me, these days. It's where I learn about upcoming games, and download FAQs and other useful files. It's where I interact with "my people" more than anywhere else - including Facebook and Google Plus.

But the site isn't free to run. They have to pay for their servers and a small staff. They run ads on the page, but that doesn't pay all of the bills, especially with the decreasing amount of money online ads are making.

Right now, every page on the site has a banner ad that leads to their Support Page. It's quick, it's painless, and it supports one of the best sites on the internet. It's even possible to set up a monthly donation via PayPal or your credit card (which is what I've done). If you donate $25 or more, you can even turn ads off.

I encourage you to support the site. I've been giving $10 per month since sometime in 2007, and I have more than received my money's worth in community, and that's even before I mention access to files and discussions with designers and publishers and the like.  Yes, free users have that same community access. Yes, free users have file access.  In fact, that's anotherof the really good things about the site: Unpaid members aren't treated as second-class just because they aren't paying for the service. They just see more ads.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Mega Civilization

Many of us have That Game That Got Away. It's a game we played and liked and then dragged our feet on picking a copy up, because "Steve has it."  And we forgot that Steve could move to Texas or California. Or we might move away. And not every group has every game.

For me, that game was Avalon Hill's Civilization, with the Advanced Civilization expansion. About twenty years ago, when I was learning that there was more to strategy gaming than just Chess, I had a group of friends who got together to play a bunch of hobby games. And this was one of them.

And then we all grew up and moved away from one another. And I wasn't able to play the game because my current group was too young and didn't have it.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on one of the (far too many) blogs I follow that stated that "Mega Civilization" was now available directly from (that link takes you directly to the game).  Hmm, I thought to myself, I wonder if that's at all similar to the Avalon Hill version of the game.

And it is.  In fact, it's the Avalon Hill version turned up to eleven.

So I had to order it.  I needed this game. Even at €249 including shipping. Because €50 in shipping isn't crazy for a 22lb package from Germany.

Now I have an internet savings account.  It's not there as an emergency cushion (although I have used it that way before).  It's there specifically for things like this. Things that I want, but that I need to think about before buying. Because the transfer takes a few days, and I only get a few transfers per month (here's a referral link).  I hesitated about ten minutes before setting the transfer up.

And I placed my order with Pegasus Shop.

The good news?  That price includes VAT. As someone in the US, I don't have to worry about VAT, so my total cost including shipping was only €209.25.  About $230.

... and then I learned that they don't take credit cards. Or PayPal. You need to wire them the money. I'm 39 years old, and my only personal experience with wire transfers was when someone in the UK subscribed to this blog on their Kindle, and they paid me via wire transfer.  I made $0.40 and my bank charged me $25 for the privilege. So I was a bit wary of the whole thing.

I called my bank and inquired about wire transfers, and it would have cost me another $50 in fees to wire funds to Germany.  Ugh.  So I went to BoardGameGeek. Someone there recommended Transferwise. Several someones, actually. Transferwise had a $3 fee and had a better exchange rate.

The drawback to Transferwise is that they were slower to process.

But here's the magical thing:  Less than a week after Pegasus had my money, the game was in my hands.

That shipping cost - which I found not unreasonable - was actually express shipping. Meaning it was even more reasonable than I'd expected.

And now the game is in my hands. Here I am opening the monster:

I spent a few hours yesterday punching and cutting tokens. I hope to get a group together to play sometime early next year. Because I can't not play this game.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

No Post This Week

I'm in the middle of a surprisingly-large editing/revision project, so no post from me this week.

I will mention that I received two new cameras and a game that I need to do an unboxing video for this weekend.  I haven't even removed the shrink, yet.  I'm very excited.

That will be up next week, along with (possibly) some photos of games taken with the new cameras.