Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gamer Perspective -- 9/02/2008

There have been many occasions when I thought about sitting down at my PC and writing the next great deeply considered treatise about X and Y. But then I look at the clock, see how late it is, and stop myself before I ever put fingers to keyboard.

Writing an in-depth article is fulfilling, but at the end of another brain-burning workday, sometimes I just want to wing it and shoot from the hip. Can you really blame me?

While I've written random babblings several times before on this blog, I never came up with a formal name for these little forays into the world of tabletop gaming. So starting today, let's call these my Gamer Perspective series. There, I feel better now. My inner urge to categorize and organize things has finally been satisfied. For now.

So what exciting things have been happening lately in the world of board games, miniatures, and wargaming? Well let's see...

BGG Ratings

I'm starting to feel that BoardGameGeek is losing its relevance to me as a source of game ratings. Yes, it's still a fantastic website, filled with a treasure trove of useful game information, FAQs and reviews, game aids, and captivating pictures. But in my eyes, there's a strong inherent bias towards Euro games there. Euros (aka: German or Designer games) are considered "the cream of the crop" by the burgeoning cult of gaming elitists that have infested the waters of BGG.

I don't begrudge anyone for liking Euro games. There are several of them that I really enjoy including Domaine, Kingsburg, Through the Desert, and Carcassonne. But when you look at the top 100 games and see that half of them are Euros, you can't help but feel like a minority voice in the gamer world, especially if your favorites happen to be wargames, miniature games, adventure games, sports games, party games, abstracts, classic games, and the like.

The hot new board game that people are drooling all over themselves to play is Agricola, a game about farming. It has surged to #1 on the BGG game ratings, bumping Puerto Rico (another euro with a somewhat bland theme) from the top spot. I have no desire to play either of those games, simply because the themes are tremendously boring to me. Sorry gamer geeks, but good, elegant game mechanics can only take a game so far. If the theme is about exciting as filling out your federal tax return then count me out. Ain't gonna buy it and ain't gonna play it.

I wish BGG offered a feature in its database to have users categorize themselves as either Euro gamers, Ameritrash gamers (adventure and battle game oriented), Miniatures gamers, Party/Social Gamers, Wargamers, or All-Inclusive gamers (like every style pretty much equally). Then we could filter the game rankings based on how different categories of gamers rated the available games. For instance, suppose you're an Ameritrash gamer. Wouldn't it be cool and informative to see how your fellow Ameritrashers ranked each game, and see what their Top 100 rankings list looked like? It's kind of like taking the GeekBuddy analysis tool and ramping it up a few notches. I would certainly find the game rankings much more useful if such a filtering mechanism existed.

The Recession and Game Spending

I've cut back on my game-related spending of late. Some of it is simply due to a lack of funds. Blowing a large wad of dough at both Origins and Historicon definitely put the kabosh on my stash of "fun money".

The recession certainly isn't helping me any. I can't wait until Bush leaves office. Say what you will about Bill Clinton's morals and poor judgement when it comes to women, but the simple fact is that under Clinton the USA had a huge economic surplus and we weren't engaged in a protracted, senseless war in the Middle East. Under Bush, our economy has lurched into the toilet, American morale is lower than I can ever remember over the past 40 years, and an ever-increasing number of countries around the world now hate us. Thanks for nothing George W.

The recession notwithstanding, I've also come to the realization that I had been plagued by that insidious brain-eating worm which gnaws away at the reasoning center of your mind. You know the one. It's that awful thing which forces you to keep buying new games and new miniatures even though you already own scads of board games that are still unplayed and boxes of minis that remain unpainted. Call it the Consumerism Bug. In most walks of life, I don't fall prey to that. But games are my soft spot. It's taken me awhile to build up my mental defenses and resist the urge to overspend.

During the month of August the only game-related things that I purchased were the Field of Glory rulebook for ancient/medieval wargaming (which was done primarily for research purposes since I'm also a game designer) and these painted Ghouls to use in my Sword of Severnia fantasy wargame:

So far in September I haven't even peeked at eBay. Now if I can just go another 28 days! Backing away from something you love is REALLY difficult!

The Death of Gaming Magazines

Just like the internet age is killing the circulation of local newspapers, the emergence of high quality hobby gaming websites such as BoardGameGeek, The Miniatures Page, ConsimWorld, Tabletop Gaming News, Gaming Report, and others have sounded the death knell for many hardcopy game magazines. Within the past 2 years, I've seen promising magazines such as Harbinger, Ragnarok, Wargames Journal, and Knucklebones all shuffle off to the print-publishing underworld.

I miss the glossy rags. Back in the 1970's and 80's we had an assortment of cool magazines to choose from including Dragon, Different Worlds, White Wolf, Space Gamer, Adventurer, Miniature Wargames, Games Master, and White Dwarf when it was at the peak of its quality and not just a glorified GW catalog.

Sadly, those golden days when you could kick back on the couch or lie in bed and scour through a bunch of glossy games magazines has passed. There are still some good magazines out there; most notably the excellent Battlegames in the miniature wargaming field and Kobold Quarterly and Polymancer for the RPG crowd (although Polymancer could be dying as the company website has seemingly been kaput for close to a year).

I think the key to a successful game magazine nowadays is to produce "timeless" articles. Forget writing about game news or the latest releases. There are too many other places online that can beat you to the punch and provide up-to-the-minute breaking news. Creative content is king.

Battlegames does it right by focusing on battle scenarios, specialty rule sets, ideas for running wargame campaigns, how-to articles on painting, terrain building, and rules design, and so forth. Board game mags could succeed by offering house rules or variants to popular games, sets of free print & play rules, ideas for customizing game components, and providing Q&A articles with famous designers and tips on designing your own games.

Some people will argue that BGG is loaded with so much information that there's no real need for a glossy magazine covering boardgames. I argue that:

  • There's so much info on BGG, it becomes daunting to find exactly what you're looking for. A monthly magazine would be more tightly focused and would cut through all the noise which exists on BGG.
  • Oftentimes, it's much more enjoyable to read OFFLINE (on the couch or in bed).

I wonder if we'll ever see a board game equivalent of Battlegames someday? What I'd really love to see is a broad "hobby games" magazine that covers board games, card games, miniature games, and RPG's in one mega-publication. I would subscribe to it. Would you?

That's all for today... Until next time, this is SultanSevy wishing you mucho fun!

1 comment:

Rock Photo Star said...

Hey, came across your blog. Look forward to reading. I also went an added it to BGG's list of gaming blogs, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Gaming_Blogs