Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top Ten Eurogame News Items from 2007

While this site is geared to all board game styles, it's no secret that I like modern Euro games, and that I associate with the modern Euro-game crowd: BoardGameGeek, Euro-game bloggers, and so on.

The Eurogame community has it's own ups and downs, shake-ups, and important events. This post is my take on the top such events in the last year.

My top ten general board game news items of 2007 is still to come.

1. Michal Barnes is banned from BGG

Board Game Geek's members also have a slant to Euro-gaming. The top 200 games on Board Game Geek are mostly Eurogames, although a large number are war-games or war-game crossovers. Excessive dice rolling games and modern American board games tend to be disliked by the vocal majority.

A number of BGG members were unhappy about this, and felt that American-style, heavy-themed, heavy-conflict games don't get their proper due on the site. While most contributors to these discussions were civil, a few were not. As membership to BGG grew, the number of forum discussions on BGG about American games vs Euro games began to spiral out of control. American gamers embraced the term for their games as Ameritrash, and began referring to Euro-game adherents as Eurosnoots (both terms by DW Tripp, I believe).

BGG's administrator, Aldie, repeatedly called for civility, but some posters prickled at the idea that they needed to adhere to one person's groundrules. After several warnings, one particularly vocal Ameritrash advocate, Michael Barnes, got banned from BGG altogether.

This was the first public banning of an individual from BGG and it sent shockwaves through the user community. Many members of BGG protested the move or canceled their own membership, withdrawing years worth of contributed content from the site. Many others expressed delight. Some claimed that American gamer voices were being silenced, while others said that this was simply aimed at a person who refused to get along with others. Some sympathized with the ban, but weren't happy about losing Michael's posts because, whatever his civility level, he is a damn fine writer.

A number of AT gamers turned around and created the blog Fortress: Ameritrash. F:AT has a loyal and devoted following and produces quality and regular material. When they write about their passions, it makes for great reading. Unfortunately, many of their earlier posts, and occasionally some of the current ones, contain hateful diatribes about Eurogames, Eurogamers (in general, or specific ones), or BGG. Many of the commenters continue to pile on bitter and pointless personal attacks.

Back on BGG, the forums have quieted down, although there are still quite a few people with not much nice to say.

2. Euro Games Come to Consoles

Early in the year we found out that Microsoft was finally getting into the Euro-game business: Settlers of Catan was on it's way to the XBox. On the heels of that announcement we heard that Carcassonne was joining Settlers, with other Euro-games to follow. When Puerto Rico was removed from BSW, the online German gaming portal, it was rumored that Puerto Rico was next.

Settlers on the XBox turned out to be a big hit, as was Carcassonne. Blokus, Ingenious, and other games have also now found their way to computer platforms. By the end of the year, news articles from video game sources claimed that the next big thing in video games ... was board games.

3. Magic Rat Passes On

Magic Rat, aka Jason Sato, was a devoted gamer and a staple board game blogger, writing one of the best and most consistent blogs in the field. They covered his weekly or special gaming sessions in great detail. Everyone who knew him had kind words to say.

It is only fitting that he went out while playing games with his local games group. Each of his blog posts ended with the same phrase: Peace Out. Peace Out, Magic Rat.

4. Mike Doyle's Game Boxes

Mike Doyle is an incredible artist who, for reasons unfathomable to us mortals, decided that his calling in life was to make better artwork for board games. Last year he started playing around with beautiful remakes of existing games and how he would like to redesign them.

This year his work finally began hitting the covers and components of a slew of board games, including a make over of Modern Art and Caylus, and some new games such as Containers.

5. Chris Farrell stops blogging

Chris Farrell's blog was the net's finest blog on board games, winning the first Board Game Internet Award and basically a must read for fine lengthy analysis pieces and no-holds-barred reviews. Unfortunately, although he continues to contribute to BGG, he hung up the towel in January. And the blog reading community is the poorer for it.

6. Mayfair sets price discount limits

The second biggest brouhaha on BGG this year was when Mayfair Games suddenly sent letters to some? all? of its online retailers forbidding them from discounting Mayfair games beyond 20%. This was done, according to the fine print, in order to allow brick and mortar stores the ability to compete. Why was this important to Mayfair? Because, according to the finer print, Mayfair believes that brick and mortar stores are where gamers are made, and therefore more important to the industry as a whole than discounted sales.

Many people cried "foul" and "price fixing", which it was, but an earlier change in U.S. law made it possible for manufacturers to engage in this sort of activity if they could prove that it was ultimately beneficial to the consumer. Half the BGG community supported Mayfair in their aims. The other threatened to boycott Mayfiar products.

Some online game stores toed the Mayfair line, while a few others refused to do so. In the meantime, bigger online retailers such as Amazon continue to sell Mayfair products at greater than 20% discounts.

7. Cosmic Encounter to be Reprinted (again)

Cosmic is one of modern board gaming's most influential games, and a favorite of many people. It has gone through several reprintings. Of all of the various editions from various publishers, the only respected ones are the original EON edition and the short-lived edition from Mayfair Games. Avalon Hill's version, which was the last and prettiest, still fell short in the fun department.

Rumors surface once in a while about a reprint, and some consider it the holy grail of reprints, if it would just get reprinted right. This year Fantasy Flight Games, known for their beautiful game components and epic game themed announced that they would finally do a reprint. Throughout the year, they've been collecting requests from the community in order to do it right. And they even gave it a general release date.

Along with Cosmic, they also indicated another holy grail of reprints would be coming, albeit with a change of theme: Dune.

8. Tzaar replaces Tamsk

Kris Blum's GIPF series of abstract games has found a large place in the heart of Eurogamers. They're great games, they come with nice pieces, and they all have funny names.

The series was said to be complete, but Kris was never happy with the second game of the series, TAMSK. So he booted it from the "set" and gave us TZAAR instead, which somehow ended up being among the best of all of them.

Pretty pretty.

9. BGG.con plays to 550 people

BGG.con grew in its third year to 550 attendees.

There was free-form gaming throughout, lots of games given away, tons of new Essen games to play, and everyone seemed to go away happy. Which if you think about it, is a minor miracle. Unlike in previous years, the vendors also left happy, as their vendor spots were moved to the sides of the main gaming room instead of "down the hall".

Probably, the Essen convention should share this spot on my list, but, while that's where most of the games make their debuts, far fewer actual Eurogamers seem to attend.

10. Top Discussed Games of 2007
  • Agricola - the new star of Eurogaming, but still hasn't dethroned Puerto Rico.
  • Tide of Iron - A big box WWII game from Fantasy Flight.
  • Starcraft - Another big box game from Fantasy Flight, this time a space game.
  • 1960: the Making of the President - A two-player game of American politics following the 1960 electoral race of Kennedy vs Nixon.
  • Brass - The new big Martin Wallace game.
  • Race for the Galaxy - A Thomas Lehmann card game produced by Ystari and Rio Grande.
  • Age of Empires III - A sprawling civilization game based on the video game.
  • Notre Dame - The next Alea big box game.
  • Thebes - A Eurogame with simple mechanics which somehow manages to have a well-integrated theme.
  • Caylus Magna Carta - Said to be all the Caylus, without the excessive game time.
  • Zooloretto - Family game of the year according to dozens of awards.


brettspiel said...

re: Mike Doyle

But, is it really art or just fine examples of the illustrator's craft? :)

Doyle's illustrations are quite good and his box designs are usually very appealing but, in terms of usability, his approach to game components often leaves me wishing he'd stick to box covers.

Anonymous said...

"Probably, the Essen convention should share this spot on my list, but, while that's where most of the games make their debuts, far fewer actual Eurogamers seem to attend."


BGG.con has around 550 attendees whereas greater than 100,000 attend Essen (the vast majority of whom are "Eurogamers").

Yehuda Berlinger said...

brett - I haven't seen the components.

anon: True, but Essen isn't really interesting news as an event. Aside from the catalog of new games, it's basically the same every year.

BGG.con, on the other hand, was an important news item in itself.