Podcasts

Why don’t I listen to as much podcasts any more? I hear this being asked a lot in our gaming community. Although everyone has different reasons, I can certainly relay my reasons why my attitudes towards podcasts have changed.

I feel I should preface this with the statement that at one time I thought about doing podcasts either in lieu or in addition to YouTube videos. The more I think about it now, I’m more inclined to make them in addition to — much like Joel Eddy’s Drive Thru Review FM (which is a great name by the way).

Shooting video and editing can be real time consuming. The quality of what I’ve seen in the board gaming community has skyrocketed. Some of it might be directly related to Patreon or Indegogo backing cash, but overall as folks get more into it, they make investments in lighting and maybe new cameras. I know myself, I still shoot on the same camera I used at the beginning and don’t use any auxiliary lighting even though I know I should. Hence, my desire to produce some content for YouTube that is more audio based with the occasional pics.

Back in the beginning when I first got into the hobby I was ravenous when it came to podcasts. I have a one hour commute each way to work every morning on the train. I was listening to so many different podcasts usually starting with the most recent and when time allowed I worked my way backwards. Over time, my excitement for listening to podcasts has waned. Here’s why, in no particular order:

1.) Much of the content, at the time, was the same. Everyone was covering the new hotness of games. A lot of the same content, but different takes on the game and different feelings on what the gamers thought. All of that became just a lot to skip over.

2.) Some of the podcast’s quality was pretty lousy. Remember, this was at the beginning and none of it showed any signs of improving. A lot of time has passed since then and now. So I am sure, as with YouTubers video quality increasing, audio has as well.

3.) Personalities. Some podcaster’s, and even some YouTuber’s, personalities bother me. I know for a fact that there are those who really dislike my style, what I have to say and what games I was reviewing. That’s OK. We agree to disagree. Anyway, some podcasts would have multiple people on it and when everyone was talking at once, sometimes it was difficult to figure out who was who. Some of those “whos” were just miserable people who didn’t like anything and didn’t have any opinion on the newest games that the podcasts were touting. One other example that comes to mind was a podcast featuring a husband and wife. More often than not, the husband would give his wife shit about a game or anything in general. This was not a sarcastic, cheeky sort of jabbing or verbal sortie that comes with a married couple. To me, at least, this sounded outright disrespectful. So much so, I could no longer listen to it. It angered me so much. I don’t think they have a podcast anymore and I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t together anymore.

I’m not sure the state of podcasts anymore. I don’t think it has grown all that much, at least from what I’ve seen. Video reviews and the like have grown exponentially however. I think also, for me anyway, I have grown as a gamer and am certainly more conscious and thoughtful about the online media I consume as I try to cut through the all the static that’s out there.

Thanks for Games

Often times when people learn that I am into board games, they immediately think Monopoly or Scrabble.  Then, I have to explain that this is not the case. I do not even own a copy of Monopoly. Many people turn their nose up at the hobby either due to lack of interest (ok, I can understand that) or lack of understanding. I’m happy I have this hobby. It helped me through a dark time in my life about 6 years ago. It allowed me to focus my mind and keep me distracted from the loneliness and grief that results from losing a loved one. It also helped me meet new people. It has allowed me to experience new things and immerse myself in worlds and situations that perhaps I would not have been able to experience. It also allowed for opportunities to be close to my daughter and that you can’t put a price on.
 
I used to be embarrassed by my love of games partially because some people just couldn’t wrap their heads around it but most people were hyper-critical of me for having such a hobby. As time went on and as I met other gamers locally, and even some online from all over the world, I readjusted my attitude. If people have an issue with me because I love this hobby then I don’t need to associate with them. Plain and simple. I don’t try and preach the gospel of board games to people. If someone wants to learn one, I’m always happy to teach them. I’m not going to teach them something complex right out of the gate. You start with something simpler and work your way up. Just like I did — baby steps. The point is, at my age, I like what I like and that’s it.
 
I would much rather play a game with someone, especially my daughter, than watch a movie or a tv show. Not that I don’t like watching a movie or a tv show, but, if given a choice, I would rather her exercise her mind, practice her math skills, work on her strategic skills, and even her social and interaction skills by playing a game. The quality time I get playing a game with anyone is far ahead better than doing some other activities. Then comes the question, why I would play games by myself. Some games are built that way. Some are solo (solitaire) or can be a multi-player game that can be modified to be solo-able. I play these for the same reason as I mentioned earlier. It’s an exercise of the mind. Or maybe it’s an immersion into an environment or theme that I want to learn more about or experience.
 
Many would cringe at how much some of the games that I have cost and, further, how much I’ve spent on all my games in the past six some odd years. I have spent, and in a manner of speaking invested, a significant amount of money into my collection even though it pales in comparison to many people I know. It’s a bit of an addiction; a bit of an obsession. It’s something I really enjoy, like to share with others, happy to teach others when I can, and I don’t see me leaving the hobby behind any time soon.

Kickstarter Annoyances

How many times has this happened to you?

You back a game on Kickstarter. Months and months go by. The game is delivered to your door. You tear open the box and find all the goodies inside — many are Kickstarter exclusives. Sure that’s cool, but maybe not entirely necessary. It might not affect game play all that much, but still cool to have to be sure.

Then…..

Thirty days later the same product, or at least very close (minus some exclusives) comes out at an OLGS for 30% or more less than your Kickstarter pledge.

I fume when I see that. Now, some of this is my own doing because 9 times out 10, the game is still unplayed on my shelf. So, it’s my own fault. I could’ve waited for the wide release version of the game to be released and not gotten some extra stuff. Or worse…it’s the same exact game. This is one of the reasons I back less games on Kickstarter than I did a year ago.

I guess it serves me right not playing the game the second it comes in and playing it multiple times or even to the point I don’t want to play it anymore just so I can say I got my money’s worth out it.

Now, I know what some of you are saying. “But you are supporting the game designers and publishers by supporting their Kickstarter campaigns.” I know I get that. As a single parent with a limited budget, sometimes I feel a little slighted when this situation occurs. I want to support publishers, I do, but sometimes I do want to save a buck or two or ten!

What do you folks think? Am I being unreasonable?

Love/Hate for Games

I’m sure some of you have experienced love/hate relationships with things in your life. For me, often times it’s games. What games specifically come to mind are the COIN series of games from GMT Games.

I think most gamers either love ’em or hate’ ’em. I’m right on the fence.

I found Fire in the Lake: Insurgency in Vietnam to be far too complex for me so I ended up selling it. A Distant Plain: Insurgency in Afghanistan, although thematically interested me, it also looked too complicated for my tastes and as of now I have decided not to pick it up. Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar and Andean Abyss: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Columbia both just don’t grab my attention due to theme — I’m just not interested in those two time periods in history.

All these games have high praise in the gaming community, but I think it’s fair to say that that praise is limited to those who play COIN games which is but a subset of wargamers. The average board game player won’t touch these with a ten foot pole. I understand that. They are beautiful to look at without question, but they still represent abstracted elements of the military, political and socio-economic issues surrounding each individual conflict. That does not appeal to some.

That leaves three left:

Liberty or Death: the American Insurrection. This game looks amazing. Being an American History major in school, this theme certainly grabbed my interest. But….after reading the rules twice, it just didn’t click — at least not yet. I know I should break out the playbook and run through the tutorial but quite honestly, if the rulebook doesn’t grab my attention, then I might be in trouble. It still sits on my shelf waiting for someone to convince me to play it.

Liberty or Death Photo: Gunnar Skötkonung

Next, Cuba Libre. This topic may not be of much interest to many as it deals with Fidel Castro’s insurgency and eventual take over of the island from dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívarta. It was my first COIN game so maybe there’s some sentimentalism there, but I also think it’s due to the much smaller board and areas of control.  It makes for a much more approachable and tight board. That being said, much like the proto-COIN game Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?, sometimes I felt unsure as to what to do to trigger a win condition, or to even get there to begin with. All these games can be really deep, heavy, and complex. I don’t mind heavy as long as I can wrap my head around it.

Cuba Libre

Lastly, Colonial Twilight: the French-Algerian War 1954-1962. Now although the content is a bit of stretch for me, what drew me to it was the fact that it was only two factions instead of the usual four. The board wasn’t as tight as Cuba Libre, but certainly not as sprawling as Fire in the Lake. The board is beautiful, and in some ways, much like Cuba Libre, a much more manageable game with regard to components. Certainly, having less factions to worry about and less pieces scattered around the board, although that does happen here a bit, it seems to be more approachable and less daunting.

Colonial Twilight

I am about as far away as you can get from a COIN expert. There are others who know far more about it than I. Some of these games I really want to like; I want to love. But it’s hard for me to get there. Perhaps, I need to play this multi-player with someone who can show me the ins and outs and allow me to better appreciate these games. I don’t discredit their genius, design or gameplay. I’m smart enough to appreciate that. However, I don’t think I have enough in my noggin’ to play these well, if not correctly. 🙂

The Teach

Trajan by Stefan Feld

Teaching games is difficult. When I was creating more content on this site than I am now (sorry about that), I was going over rules in many of the videos. It was only a 30,000 foot view — just an overview. I didn’t go into every little detail. I mean, if I did, no one would watch any of those videos, right? Likewise, if someone was explaining a complex game to me and they took an hour or more to do it, why would I want to play it? Teaching games is inherently the most important thing in this hobby we are in. Learning new games is what keeps this hobby alive. But all too often the method by which others teach new games can often leave something to be desired.

Teaching games is an art form; it truly is. A friend of mine (we’ll call him Drew) is an expert at teaching games. He explains the context of the game very quickly — just a couple of sentences to set the scene and the context of the game, and then states the objective/victory condition — what do we need to do to win. Then, he proceeds to game play, sequence of play, what actions you can do on your turn, and tips for someone who is just starting out playing the game for the first time. He has an immense amount of patience which I attribute to his very analytical mind. He can break a complicated game down to its constituent parts and go through each one methodically. I can be pretty patient teaching a game but I admit I am not very good at that and need a lot more, well, that’s what comes next.

Teaching games takes practice. Drew has well over 400 games in his collection and has played them all many times. He hosts several game nights a month ranging from game days of run of strategy standards, to heavy Euro weekdays, to social deduction nights! He’s played a lot. And, more importantly, he’s taught a lot. Having that many games in one’s collection, how can you not be an excellent game teacher, or in the very least, an above average one? I admire him for his expertise in his abilities and I’ve tried to model my teaching techniques after his. Admittedly, I need more practice. Way more!

Although we don’t necessarily have to teach others to play games, that is if you don’t want to introduce your friends, family or game group to a game that you want to play, we are probably going to have to learn to teach. Some do it better than others and that’s OK. The only advice I can give is using the brief aforementioned strategy and to keep doing it. Keep practicing. And most importantly, be patient and demonstrate grace while you do it. You will get better. It just means we have to play more games! And that’s not a bad thing.

Game Quality

A couple of weeks ago I received a game that I had preordered many months before. There were some printing errors in the game when it arrived. My question is how do you folks feel about that? Do you excuse that? Do you say, “Oh well, that’s OK?”

I was informed by a designer that I could was being unreasonable to expect “zero defects.” This industry expert further added that no one gets paid, and that companies are struggling to get by. Whether this designer is correct or not is irrelevant. I have issues with these statements.

First, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect my game to be pristine when it arrives. I expect the rules to be well written. This can be problematic if the game was created overseas then translated to English. I should expect all the components to be present and not short. I expect all the cards to be correct with no deficiencies. I’m uncertain how mistakes happen. After a year or more of play testing and multiple proofs from the printer, errors still slip by? How many people are proofing? I don’t work in the printing industry. I work in technology in academia. Before we bring a new space online, it is punched (QC’d) not just by the vendor but also by us. I mean 8 of us. My entire department and all 16 eyes go over everything. We bring in our clients to look it over to evaluate the user interface. What one person misses another finds. It’s pretty simple really. Not sure why this wouldn’t be happening in the gaming industry too.

Second, if these companies are struggling to get by then maybe they shouldn’t be in business. I understand that there is a deep commitment and love for games by publishers and their designers but the bottom line is, game publishers should be concerned with the bottom line. They are there to make money. Plain and simple. If your business is not sustaining itself, you need to find a way or pull the plug. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh but it’s like anything else. If it isn’t working for you in anything you do, you make adjustments or you shit can it. That’s it.

Third, if the problem is at the printer then they should be held accountable. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. They’ve given you proofs. How can errors still occur? What about quality control on their end? Clearly, if the printer can’t get the job done, take your business elsewhere. A game publisher shouldn’t be held hostage by a printer because they say they’re sorry and that’s who’ve you been using for years. That aside I understand it’s also a question of economics. An unfortunate truth.

A friend of mine is a New York Time best-selling author. In all his books I have never seen a spelling error or any error of any kind. Now you’re saying “But that’s not the same!” Of course it is. Text is text. Whether it’s 20 words or 200,000 words; a 36 page rulebook or a 360 page novel. What difference does it make? You mean the quality suffers because it has less words than more? Shouldn’t there be more errors in more words than less? Statistically, one would tend to think that would be the case.

Moreover, if I say I’m going to sell you a coffee mug for $10 and say, “The color might be a little off, it might have a chip in it, and it might leak.” Would you still buy it? No, you wouldn’t. You would say it isn’t right for anyone to sell me a product that they know is defective. You have to trust that the product is up to par. Others will say, I’m being unrealistic and that defects happen. Agreed. However, I can show you games that cost half as much, with twice and three times as many cards and components and “zero defects.”

I may sound bitter but I’m not. If I’m purchasing a game for well over $50 I may not expect the game to be great or even mediocre. I do expect the game to have the standards that I assume the designers have — that the company has. Everything has been checked. Double checked. Triple checked. Ad nauseam. You get the idea.

Perhaps, (no, I know) I am more annoyed that the publisher knew there was a problem but did not inform their constituents before they started shipping copies of the game. And, if the community “knows” about it after the fact, shouldn’t the publisher email all customers and acknowledge the defect anyway? Isn’t that being honest and a good, moral member of the gaming community? 

Interestingly enough, this company will be shipping fixes for the issue around a month from now. That information was buried in a generic monthly email to members of their list distribution. Unfortunately, it probably should’ve been sent already to those that pre-ordered it. But c’est la vie. Better late than never I suppose.