Journal: 10/24/2017

I was inexplicably suspended from Twitter today around noon. I have no clue why - the site doesn't notify me. I filed an appeal and I hope this is resolved in the near future. And if it isn't, it's probably healthier for me to not be on Twitter.

I had many thoughts on games this afternoon and it struck me that without Twitter, my next recourse is to write a blog. So, that's what I'll do. I have a few quick topics.

Love of the Craft: I received a game in the mail today I've honestly wanted for months. I actually first heard about it at an Unpub many years ago and thought it sounded like an amazing idea. Well, years later, it finally came out. Sadly, the first impression is really soured by a very crummy production. The cardboard is mis-printed and miscut. Other than the box cover, there are no illustrations of which to speak. This is fine, I get that illustrations are costly. But, the graphic design is also entirely amateur. Wait, I'm an amateur. I create things better than this. Worse, it's without any caring or affinity for the craft. Most of the cards are no more than a 10 pixel red stroke with no texture or background layering. The interior of the card is a solid white background. It looks like a lazy prototype.

Except, I paid $50 for this game. It wasn't cheap. I'm also an early adopter as I haven't seen this game in local stores and haven't seen a great deal of coverage. I'm not sure I'm terribly inclined to further promote it, though. Sadly, this is a thing for which this publisher is renowned. You can see some of these footprints follow the game makers from company to company.  

I think we have a wide spectrum of game components. You see a lot of outright fetishism on Kickstarter with absurdly over-produced hour long games. Metal coins, miniatures, all sorts of silliness that just isn't necessary. You also have some games that are indulgent, but feel suitably epic. I own a luxurious copy of the latest edition of War of the Ring. It's a little abusrd, yes, but it's an epic. beloved, fantastic experience. But, then you have the other end of the spectrum. Beyond the crazed Kickstarter whackadoodle's entitlement you also have publishers that simply don't seem to care. They use the cheapest components, they hit up their friend with a copy of Photoshop to quickly slap some cards together, and they phone it in.

It's frustrating and I'm over it. I don't think I want to buy from this publisher anymore, and, not that they'd want my titles, I certainly won't be submitting to them. I just expect better. Tabletop games are a luxury hobby with a tangible, physical good. When I pay $50, I want to know you cared about the product. I don't want to feel like you are trying to squeeze every dime out of it.

Thank you Uwe: I thought a great deal about Uwe Rosenberg to create my piece about A Feast for Odin. I've thought about him quite a bit more since then. The gift of Uwe keeps on giving as he bestowed upon me the "oh snap" moment I neede to finally progress on a years old idea I've had.

I've really wanted to make a worker placement game, and secondly, a worker placement war game. Inspired by the success of Cry Havoc, and observing the other euro hybrids of Cyclades (auctions), Kemet, Inis (drafting), I felt like there was room for more such games. I actually tested a prototype a year or so ago against this and it wasn't bad. It had some neat ideas, actually. I should return to it...

But as often happens with some ideas, my excitement for a prototype fades inexplicably. I just don't have the juice. Either I'm fickle, or the idea wasn't worth pursuing. Probably both. I still wanted to make this worker placement war game. Well, inspired by A Feast for Odin's loot puzzle and a 50 year old game called Situation 4, I finally had my "a ha!"

Image taken from this blog

I was thinking about the patterns military units form in Kriegspiel scenarios, as shown above. Only so many tanks and infantry can use the same roads. Only so many rifles can be stacked along a front. Only so many cavalry can ford a river. Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics. Well, you can abstract a lot of these spatial logistical considerations with the tetris-like gameplay.

I also thought about the unique shapes that confront commanders. Peninsulas, narrow straights, mountain passes. I thought about how a simple square grid laid on top of a map creates a very natural tactical puzzle. For example, take this Soviet map of the city of San Diego.

Image provided by this Wired article.

There are a thousand questions to solve. How do I acquire units? What are the worker placement actions? When is the battle resolved? What is the battle resolution? Those can all be solved. I think this spark is fascinating. It also means I need to buy more posterboard.

That's it for today. What did you think of this journal? Useful? Dumb? If you thought of anything interesting today, leave it in the comments.