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.

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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.

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Culling your Collection

You know that feeling? That feeling you get when you look at your shelf of games and realize you are running out of space, especially when you live in a small apartment, such as myself, and you need to get rid of some of your games?

It’s so bittersweet, isn’t it? For me, and quite possibly for you as well, it can be really, really difficult to cull your collection. Many games in my collection remain unplayed still even though I was certain I needed to have it, I had to buy it, and I must play it! Months go by and several other games have taken residence in your queue of games to be played. Then you realize that there are others you just can’t seem to get to the table. Sigh.

 

Often times, I have regret over buying a game. Maybe I was in a situation where I really wanted that game but had to beg, borrow and steal (No, I didn’t really rob a bank or anything) money in order to buy it. Maybe, it was a Kickstarter game that looked really good but then I watched reviews/previews after the campaign ended and people were putting the game on a pike and setting it ablaze. Or maybe it just wasn’t what I expected, or didn’t like, or my group or family didn’t care for it. Whatever the case, and there are lots of them, everyone has had a situation like this. It’s time to get rid of some games.

I know for me personally, I’ve been trying to limit my game purchases based on games I sell on a Facebook group or the GeekMarket and use those proceeds to purchase anything new, or at least new to me. This is a new “rule” I put into a affect this year as part of a New Year’s Resolution. Additionally, I could also trade a way another game or more for something else. I’ve been trying, with limited success, to honor the rule: One Game In, One Game Out. I’ve been looking over my stats that I’ve been keeping to see what games have come in and what has gone out. Overall, I’m pretty close.

Let’s take a look:

January:

In: Caverna, Herbaceous, Far Space Foundry, Discoveries, Feast for Odin, RAF
Out: Burgle Bros., Augustus, SftGE, D-Day Dice

February:

In: CV, Medici, Grimslingers, One Deck Dungeon, Villages of Valeria, Glen More

Out: oddball Äeronauts, My Happy Farm, Sans Alliés, Far Space Foundry, Indigo, Cargo Noir, Cruel Necessity, Exploding Kittens, Friese’s Landlord, Hostage Negotiator, Labyrinth: The War on Terror, Legendary Encounters, Niya, Scripts and Scribes: The Dice Game, Tales & Games: The Three Little Pigs, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Agents of SMERSH

March:

In: Comanchería, The Networks, Trajan, Roll Player, Dino Dude Ranch, Colony, Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age, Shephy, Lagoon: Land of Druids, Project Dreamscape

Out: Dragon’s Hoard

April:

In: Sagrada, Kingdomino, Planetarium, Merchants & Marauders, Nations, VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, Dream Home, Nations, Dungeon Petz

Out: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game, Deus, Shipwrights of the North Sea, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Potion Explosion, Draco Magi, Forbidden Island, Revolver, Roll For It!, Mint Tin Aliens, Mint Tin Pirates, Burgoo, Zigity, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, Pictureka!, Sorry! Card Game

May:

In: Terraforming Mars, B-17 Flying Fortress Leader, Pocket Landship, Archipelago, New Bedford, Ships, Medici: The Card Game

Out: A Feast for Odin

June:

In: Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks, Game of Trains, Gib Gas!, Via Nebula, Quadropolis, Nemo’s War (second edition), Century: Spice Road, Pokémon Trading Card Game, Shahrazad

Out: Kingdomino, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, Epic PVP: Fantasy, Garden Dice

July:

In: The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, Scythe

Out: Arkham Horror: The Card Game

So the overall delta right now is: 5. Over. 🙁 Five more came in than went out. Not bad, I guess. It’s only July. There’s still a chance I can get that number to where it needs to be.

But like I said, it’s hard. I feel regret for not giving games enough of a chance. I mean how many times do I need to play something to realize “nope?” Sometimes that number is a dozen. Other instances it’s been just a few or maybe even once. Horrors! I think for everyone it’s different.

To minimize the anxiety I feel when I see my crowded game shelves, I’ve taken games that will most definitely be traded or sold off the kallax and they store them away in my daughter’s closet. Yet selling these games has proven difficult. I usually ask for 25% off OLGS prices. That hasn’t worked out too well. I mean no one wants to lose their shirt but I do want to get at least some of money back. Maybe it’s time for a 50% off sale!

In the end, the funny part is, once the game is gone I don’t feel so bad. I feel liberated. Isn’t that awful? Poor unloved board game. If any of you see a game you might be interested in on my shelf, let me know. It could be sitting there just waiting for a new home that will give it some love.

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