I have a problem. I like games. In fact, I like games so much that I have a pile of perfectly good games that haven’t left their shrink wrap. Just like most people collect books that they’ll never read or start TV series’ they’ll never finish.
I’m not talking about bad games. Bad games end up being recycled. These are good games that – for many reasons – have never been played. It’s a nerd’s island of misfit toys.
Let’s take a look through the archetypical examples.
The “6th on the list” Game
World’s Fair 1893 is – by any account – a solid game. It got a solid 7.3 on Boardgamegeek.com. Tom Vasel of Dice Tower highly recommends it. And yet it never seems to break through. I took it on vacation, set it up, ran through it myself to learn it. No one else would play. Ugh. Now I keep looking at it on the shelf and think, “Oh, I should play that some day” as I reach for Imperial Settlers or Istanbul or Flamme Rouge.
At work, I call this “6th on the list” syndrome. There’s inevitably that interesting, somewhat important project that never rises to the top. If it’s been below Number 5 on the list for a few weeks…it’s time to move it up or dump the project. Same thing happens with new markets. I see people taking polls on how much pain they feel around certain problem, touting that this was “6th on the list out of twenty!” Folks, 6th on the list doesn’t get funded if it’s a new IT project or to the table if it’s a game. Sorry, World’s Fair 1893 – you’re a great game but you haven’t cracked the Top 5.
The “What the #$%^ Does That Mean” Game
Ignacy Trzewiczek makes and/or publishes incredible games like Imperial Settlers and Cry Havoc. But two of his games land on the worst rulesbook of all times. One is Robinson Crusoe, 1st Edition. The second is First Martians. I’ve tried to read the rules book. I’ve set up the scenarios to take a tutorial approach. I just can’t get it. Even the Watch It Played video takes twice as long as normal. Maybe I’ll set the board up and try it again. Or maybe I’ll just play a game I know how to play.
Ignacy is not alone here. I’m just picking on him because he’ll likely never see this. The rules book issue has become a serious handicap in the gaming industry. They’ve improved since the days of Advanced Squad Leader but not enough. I mean, there is an industry on Youtube where people make a living by creating videos showing how to play games. Getting a game to the table involves a cash investment and a time investment. I need to be able to play it myself before I can teach it to others. If the rules book is ambiguous, incorrect, or incomplete enough, that dampens my ability to bring it out.
The “Dungeons, Trolls, and Naked Ladies” Game
Well, besides having nudity on the rulesbook cover, miniatures that wear less clothes than I’d imagine your average stripper wears, and a general misogynist attitude?
I get why they did it. They were being true to their source materiel. Robert E. Howard’s books were not known as enlightened books of feminism. But that doesn’t make it right. I have two teenage boys and a little girl. This is not what I want to have out to be a good example.
To top it off, dungeons crawlers limit my regular game victims/partners down. While I can sell a good train game or a Pandemic, anything that smacks of Dungeons and Dragons will mean I’ll lose some of my audience. Elves don’t apparently sell.
The “How Long Does That Take?” Game
I’ve learned through much, much pain to the pocketbook. The first thing1 I should always look at when buying a game is the playtime. Great Western Trail falls into the great game category. It’s a Kennerspiele des Jahres recommended game (and Germans know boardgame). “But man…it’s rated to take up to 150 minutes?” says I as I reach for the nice, easy game that takes 60 minutes. I just need to get a group of people willing to invest the time to play a long game2
The “There is no good reason” Game
I got nothin’. These games belong on the table.