In this imperceptibly 136th episode of the Shut Up & Sit Down podcast, Ava, Tom and Quinns chat about two chunky pieces of cardboard chicanery about people in history going places and taking what they find. Anno 1800 and Stroganov are up for discussion and travelling in opposite directions in more ways than one.
02:02 - Anno 1800
17:23 - The politics of Anno 1800
27:48 - Stroganov
One of the things that annoyed me in this episode was the assertion the strategy of a game should be discernible on the first play. Here it was encapsulated by Qunn’s arrogance that Stroganov was a bad game because they play a lot of games and expect to value every thing accurately straight away. Tom repeated a view against opacity in games as well. For me it highlights why I’ve stopped actually using SUSD for game recommendations. Having the chance to explore, discover and improve in a game is something I personally value. 6+ games in being able to discover new strategies gives a game legs. Suggesting something has low/no value if it’s a challenge seems very instant gratification worship. Boo! Never work at anything if you can’t do it first time
(Not yet listened.)
I think the modern games market is focused on getting a large fraction of the overall gameplay experience into the first few plays, on the assumption that next month there will be a few hundred more games out and you won’t play this one again anyway. No point in having an “a-ha” moment thirty games in if you’ll only play five times. Also because reviewers are busy and may not get to play more than a couple of times themselves; or in my case because I have a large collection and by the time I come back to this particular game I’ve forgotten the subtleties I’d worked out last time. So it’s quite unusual when something doesn’t.
Obviously that’s not universal (PanLeg, Gloomhaven) – though when Forgotten Circles came out the thing the Gloomhaven players I heard from were saying was “whoa, I haven’t even finished the base game content yet”. PanLeg works by being a good game to start with; SeaFall took too long to get to the good bits and spaced them too widely.
But I get the impression that something like Cubitos doesn’t have a lot of surprises when you start changing round the cards that define what the dice do. You’re still bagbuilding and yahtzeeing and racing, just with some different substrategies to choose from.
I will admit that my own taste tends to lie in this direction, playing a lot of different games shallowly rather than a few deeply. The variation comes from a new game rather than an old game played with more skill. On the other hand my board game buying has collapsed over the last few years so I’m starting to play fewer things more often…
While I think everyone is welcome to play games however they like, I think I made a mistake early on, and so did my friends, therefore this game is bad is a particularly shoddy criticism.
I think one big advantage of shallow playing of many games is not having a collection where you have serious mastery of the games giving you a hefty skill differential against new to the game people. It allows them to stay broadly social. That being said I like a heavier game for getting to grips with some systems and then getting on to some more subtle and advanced tactics.
@KIR2 what happened to that post? You had some good points in there and I broadly agreed with your analysis of reviewer syndrome and the place for reviews in the gamers life cycle
Sometimes my posts feel a bit negative/mean, so I get bashful and delete them. Limited edition
I think it is tricky (and I am yet to listen to the podcast, and the one before for al that matters). Of course, Quinns is entitled to his opinion, but if the statement you mention is right, is not good criticism. Rather than “Stroganov is a bad game” he should have said “I don’t like it because of this”. Which opens the door to “it is not for me, but it may be for you”… which I think is better reviewing… and that’s my 50 cents.
It should also be noted that the podcast isn’t review. They’re generally presenting early impressions of games, and potentially reasons why they’re not reviewing a game, etc. So it shouldn’t be taken as authoritative, but rather suggestive when it comes to “the game is good/bad”.
Only halfway through the podcast, but I found their take on the polished Brass a bit odd.
I mean, the Roxley rulebook even has mini-blurbs for prominent people of the era, which are written entirely positively, despite those people being responsible for some horrible exploitation. It’s just as guilty of sanitising history as other similar games, and the dark graphic design doesn’t really change that?
It’s a difficult line to walk. As soon as the ‘correction of revisionist history’ tack is started, it’s going to need a lot of research into pretty much every game. It’s untenable to maintain consistency unless a quick Google is counted as research.
I would also disagree with the argument that the Anno 1800 video game isn’t ‘as bad’ (for want of a better phrase) because they provide a narrative ‘not all colonialists’ reason for why the player is there and not involved in the problematic side of colonialism. As pointed out in a PC gamer article , many of the resources of the game are inextricably linked to the slave trade. Abolitionist or not, those trades involved a lot of blood. I’m not sure what making the player distanced from those activities, but still profiting from the output, achieves in avoiding anything problematic - especially in a game about expansion and development.
I’m not a big fan of Boardgames which obscure their interestingness. For one it makes it doubly difficult to find two or more people to dig into it.
Secondly I think it suggests that perhaps the designers don’t really know what is interesting.
I’m not that interested in decoding multi line maths equations because that just satisfies the puzzle of solving multi line maths equation but for me that’s not that much of an attractive feeling to experience.
I want to feel the tension of someone jumping in front of you in a queue or my hubris come back to haunt me but in an abstracted safe space.
I had a change of heart, let’s bring back the post without the ending.
"I can’t help but hear the views of SUSD from the lens of people who have to play loads of games day in day out. Sometimes that is helpful for having a wide range of experiences for context. Other times it’s likely quite detrimental - exhaustion/fatigue, everything of a genre looking quite similar, and being quite quick dismiss anything without that immediacy. It comes through most often on lighter games, when the vibe is “this is a really fun refreshing game to play when you need a break between all those other rules heavy games you’ve spent all day playing”, as if that’s a situation anyone may find themselves in.
Translating the experience of the professional reviewer to the experience of the audience is always going to be a difficult task, and the team make a commendable effort. Cracks show sometimes, and that’s fine, they’re only human."
I do wonder if Tom Vasel must get bored of board games. Imagine not being able to get bored of Boardgames so you can pay your mortgage. It feels like that ironic punishments kind of hell.
Heard the podcast last night. It is an interesting posture we are seeing more and more about games depicting historical events… particularly depicting the industrial revolution or colonial expansion. On the one hand, I see the point of the responsibility of developers to be accurate and depict the dark side of history without white-washing it. I loved NPI take on colonialism on one of their last videos for that.
On the other hand, I think if we cannot go beyond that, we will be just managing those kind of situations in sci-fi and fantasy backgrounds so they are not “offensive”. I know it is going to extremes, but, in the end, they are just board games. Is it ludicrous that there is an aspect of the game that involve hunting animals just for their pelts (VPs)? Yes it is. Can I deal with it? Yes I can, as it is only a game.
So I am sitting on the edge in respect to that aspect of board games. Or video games, for that matter. I think it is great that SUSD and PNI are up to talk about these issues, as the more information, the better, but in the end, games use historical settings as an attractive theme that we can relate somehow to. For that matter, the commercial theme on a game like Concordia hasn’t really raised any eyebrows, and it was quite likely mostly powered by slave force. Does it make me enjoy the game less…? I am afraid it hardly doesn’t.
Yeah, setting everything in space or fantasy land is obviously not a viable solution.
Personally, I’d be happy if rulebooks could just do slightly better than fawning “feel good” bios for primary characters, for example. That doesn’t seem like an unfairly high bar.
Correct me if I’m wrong as I don’t have loads of Roman (etc) history knowledge, but I think the Roman use of slaves is quite different from the Atlantic slave trade in terms of magnitude, conditions, how people became slaves, etc.
Plus it doesn’t have the same lasting effects on living people and cultures, etc.
Like, no one’s gonna be playing Concordia and thinking “hey, I get to use great-grandma as a resource”.
I think you hit the nail on the head there. Distance in time is key, like many other factors.
But slavery through history has been as bad, if not worse. There would be exceptions, of course, like Greeks that enslaved themselves to become closer to Roman high society as tutors and such, but still that’s more the exception. Still, carrying a merchant litter all day is not precisely easy pickings.
What makes slavery in Antiquity different to African slave trade is that the latter still has a strong legacy that a huge portion of the dominant group that operated the African slave trade just doesnt want to confront its history.
Just this year a group of nutters stormed their federal legislative building where some members wave the traitor flag from the American Civil War.
Given the vast conceptual space that games occupy, even the slightly smaller one occupied by competitive games, it seems to me that there are an awful lot of ideas and set-dressings which aren’t “war” or “taking stuff from people who can’t fight back”.
(Especially in classic Euros where the theme isn’t tightly tied to the mechanics anyway.)
On the “embarrassed to put it in front of your friends” thing… is unexamined colonialism the new egregiously underdressed hawt babe? Which most game publishers (boardgames and RPGs) have now wised up about, at last; I’ve certainly avoided buying games because of the cheesecake.