Journal: 10/29/2017

Another day, still suspended from Twitter. I have a few fun topics today, so let's dive in!

Hippodice: Back in late September I submitted my light-euro design to the prestigious Hippodice competition. This design is my first euro and one in which I deliberately set forth to create something highly accessible, very simple, but still with meaningful depth. The novel mechanism I've cooked up is called action trading, in which you take an action on your turn, but then you must give an opponent the action. Almost like swapping worker placement spots from Caverna...but with bribery.

Anyways, I received the absolutely awesome notice this morning that the design was accepted by the competition! I packaged up a nice version of the prototype with my finest colored cubes and some thick paper stock. I'll be shipping it off tomorrow. I cannot wait to see the results in March. It'll be a killer wait!

I typically ignore competitions. I find the judges can be highly subjective - which makes sense - and it's often tricky to know what those judges want. Also, a lot of these competitions play most games once or so, then move on and dive deeper into the games that make a great first impression. Now, I'm sure some of my submissions are trash. But, what is 100% true of most of my designs is that they require a few plays to really click. I get that that's my own fault, and it's a big reason I struggle finding publication. But, for this submitted design, I don't believe that's the case.

We'll see. I'm really excited!

Gimmicky: I'm seeing a lot of gimmicks lately in the board game space. I feel gimmicks are often the manifestation of marketing and "big idea" business types, so it's only natural that as the tabletop space grows, more of those silly folks enter the arena. Gimmicks make for a good front of box slogan and a catchy elevator pitch, but I think they often make for a lousy product. According to the Google definition, it's "a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business." By definition it isn't about the end consumer, but getting their attention.

If you look at your game store you'll see a lot of things. You have glasses that can only see red wrapped into what seems to be a pretty boring deduction game. AEG is betting the farm on transparent cards, and every thirty minutes it seems another title is being Deluxified on Kickstarter. In a lot of these cases, I wonder if the end consumer is benefitting at all? Are these changes delivering joy? What is the cause on these customers losing steam with other tabletop offerings?

Not all gimmicks are bad. I think Two Rooms and a Boom is the perfect gimmick. It's catchy, it makes you go "huh," and it leads to a great game! I think the "stack wooden stuff" gimmick of Jenga, with modern incarnations such as Junk Art or Meeple Circus, are great ideas. Hell, Flick 'em Up is a wooden toy masquerading as a game and it's wonderful. I own the entire product line. These are perfect gimmicks and one where the novelty of the marketing isn't getting in the way of a great product.

The tabletop space is rapidly growing. Gamers that came on board thanks to Catan, or Ticket to Ride, or The Resistance, are going to be looking for new games, new ideas, and ways to continue their journey in the hobby. I worry about folks spending $50 (or more!) on an okay game with a flashy gimmick instead of a great product that'll bring them joy for years. I don't have an action item. I don't have a solution. It's just something I'm seeing more of...it seems...and I'm curious if it'll have any ill effects. 

Hookbox Challenge: Had a really good brainstorm for The Game Crafter's hookbox challenge. I don't want to spoil anything yet, but I want to leave you with a couple pictures that may hint at the idea. And no, the game isn't about fat hands.