From: Jonathan Degann (JDegann@davd.com)
Date: Fri, 2 Aug 1996 11:51:02 -0700
Subject: Your July editorial
A couple of thoughts on...
Winning Moves has made a mixed start out of the gate. Raj and Priceless are certainly of interest. But the rest of the line seems to be marketed at the Victorian Parlour Game crowd.
Well, it depends on how you judge a company. Those guys have been around the block more than once, Gamut of Games went belly up, and now they are entitled to eat. I'd judge them only by the games that are positioned to us. The fact that Judge & Jury is of little interest in no way makes Priceless less of a game. I wouldn't judge Mayfair on the basis of Power Lunch. So I would recommend judging Winning Moves on the quality of games like Raj and Priceless, and pretend that the others didn't exist.
Now, if they were to come out with, oh, let's say a game like "Assassin", then they'd have to take their lumps.
BTW - I looked for Hols der Geir (oh, just ignore my spelling) in the Rules and in the Reviews of the Cabinet - and found nothing. Who invented it? What's it about? Any good?
What's in a Name?
My suggestion (boy, I can really feel 'em flappin' in the wind now, boys): Cafe Games. These games tend to be short in duration - 1 to 1.5 hours tops. They're appearance is striking and, ideally, even beautiful. The individual components are of high quality - durable cards from Belgium, simple pieces made of wood, more sculpted pieces made of bright, durable plastic, boards mounted on heavy cardboard with waterproof coatings. The game play is dynamic and engaging with all of the players active as much of the time as possible. The social aspects are strong as players interact and have a good time. And the games appeal to a broad range of people - not just the fanboys and the spielfreaks.
I'd like to find a cafe where these games are played. How about "Social Strategy Games". Social to distinguish them from chess and Squad Leader; Strategy to distinguish them from Taboo and Pictionary (which, not being Victorian and having no parlour, I refer to as "Party Games") Sometimes I call them multiplayer hobbyist games. Hobbyist to distinguish them from Monopoly and other items carried at Toys R Us.
We've played Priceless several times and it is not, unfortunately, Cartel. Look for a review in this month's Cabinet.
Raj, on the other hand, is Hols der Geier. Same game, same author - Alex Randolph. Which is cool except that High Society is a slight variant that makes for a much improved game. Personally, I prefer some of Randolph's other games like Twixt and even Sagaland/Enchanted Forest.
There are several games friendly cafes here, several in London, and at least one in Paris. Take a game to a cafe and play. That's how it starts.
"Social Strategy Games" sounds a bit dry. Sort of a GSA name, don't ya know. (The GSA is America's General Services Administration, our core set of civil servants, and a fine lot they are, too, but a bit dry, as I say, in the naming department.)
I also realize that folks often refer to games like Taboo and Pictionary as "Party Games" but the majority were invented and played in the Victorian era. The fact that they've been re-issued doesn't change that. Classical music doesn't magicly become Modern when someone modern plays it. Music also does not become bad just because it is old. But it may become dated and modern tastes often prefer modern sounds.
Jonathan refers to Cabinet friendly games as multiplayer hobbyist games, using "hobbyist to distinguish them from Monopoly and other items carried at Toys R Us."
I guess one of my points was that these are NOT hobbyist games - they're actually fun, instead. Hobbyist games suggest products marketed at folks that are interested in games for the games themselves. This would include esoteric, possibly morally offensive subjects, complex mechanisms, daunting rule books (possibly exactingly numbered to help clarify during extended correspondence on minute points), and, of course, as the end product of all this obscurity, solitaire rules (with an apology to all the shut ins out there).
Gee, High Society is such a bare bones game. How is it different from Raj? I find it rather limited in that tactics don't really vary from game to game; by the time any pattern starts developing, the game is over. Cards tend to sell for standard values - until the end game. OTOH, it's a game that can be played like Dalmuti - you play it several times in an evening, and can switch chairs and hats depending on how you came in (with low cash winding up on the bottom).
On naming this type of game: Are we trying to market them or describe them? Howabout Group Strategy Games? Social Board Games? Socialist Board Games? (a category of one - Class Struggle)
They played Taboo in the Victorian era? I thought EVERYTHING was Taboo back then. But anyway, board games were also played back then. No one who buys Pictionary thinks of themselves as buying a Victorian Parlor Game. It's just not a meaningful title, any more than it's appropriate to call a Ford Taurus a "Jazz Age Motor Vehicle" because that's when they invented cars.
I know you're winking, but go to a party and start asking people what they think of The Settlers of Catan. They'll probably say that as long as the Settlers have Green Cards, it's okay by them.
Cartel and Priceless are, apparently, very different games that use similar equipment. If you get a chance to play Priceless I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
In Raj you always play through the entire deck of prestige cards (the cards that you are bidding on). And there is no thief card. And, I believe, the minus cards are less strong - just a simple minus one, two, three, etc (though I'm stretching my memory on that claim). Otherwise, it is very similar to High Society.
On the subject of naming these games, I think we're trying to describe them in a way that's aestheticly pleasing AND accurate. When you put a carpet down are you trying to keep your feet warm or please your eye? Hopefully both.
"Group Strategy Games? Social Board Games? Socialist Board Games?" Sounds like something that would be played at therapy. Still too dry.
If I was driving a Model T or a Stutz Bearcat I would call it a Jazz Age Motor Vehicle. These games were invented and played way back when - Taboo, Pictionary, the lot - and haven't changed. Sorry, dude, you've been marketed to Hell and back and didn't even notice. Not that some of them aren't fun. They're just not original and, for the most part, you don't really need to buy the marketed game in order to play. (Of course, many card games - such as Dalmutti - fall into that same camp.)
Jonathan went on to ask me about cafes in our area that are games friendly. I've written about Muddy's in San Francisco in the past. I can also recommend Lucy's Tea House in downtown Mountain View, California. Lucy is a big games fan and has many games on hand. You can also bring in your own games. And the tea and snacks are great!
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell