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EDITORIAL – SPRING 2009 – VOL. 2 NO. 30

It’s Pretty but is it ART…?

 

Everyone is familiar with the age old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? An interesting debate no doubt and one that can keep you scratching your head for the answer. But when it comes to games, the question morphs into another puzzler: which comes first, the art or the game play?

Art is an intrinsic and valuable part of any game from the box cover to the board to the cards and other components, even to the rulebook. Good art on a box lid can make a game virtually jump off the store shelf (or the internet page) and make you want to discover more about the game. That can translate into a purchase which is exactly what the game publisher wants. Opening up a game board that is both colorful and attractive can put you into the proper frame of mind where you can’t wait to push those cubes or counters from space to space. Touching attractive game components can be a tactile treat worth the cost of the game all by itself. A well designed rulebook, filled with colorful pictures and examples of play, can generate a lot of enthusiasm too. And enthusiasm for the game is what the designer wants. All of this is very pretty. But is it art? Not always. The gaming shelves are filled with examples of artwork not serving a game well and even great designers are not immune to the pain. Consider a few.

Medici from Reiner Knizia is a brilliant auction game, arguably the best of its type. The game has gone through no less than THREE editions – and STILL the artwork (colors, fonts) aren’t right and detract from the gameplay. Wolfgang Kramer’s and Horst-Rainer Rösner’s brilliant Tycoon received a recent make-over as El Capitan. Lots of good things added in the new version. But the new “dark” look made the game difficult to play. This issue’s Heads of State is a terrific design that manages to overcome unattractive and unhelpful graphics.

From my chair at the gaming table, the artistic merits of a game lie with how well they aid in making the game work. I’m more than willing to give “points for presentation” for a game’s graphic excellence that shows time, thought, effort and talent in presenting a powerful package. Of course, the ideal is when excellence of graphic design meets excellence of game design. Then you really have something. But the key question is (and has always been) “How does the game PLAY?” It may be pretty but is it ART that makes the game? Afraid not. As Shakespeare once wrote (and the Bard and I most certainly agree): “The play’s the thing.”

In this issue of GA REPORT, we roll through civilization, fight for Texas independence and, believe me, heads will roll! Meanwhile, Pevans visits ancient China, Kban remembers what it was like to have money, Andrea “Liga” Ligabue feels the need for speed, Greg Schloesser gets centered, Joe Huber gets steamed and Chris Kovac gets snowed And, of course, much more!

Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President


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Spring 2009 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Pevans CONFUCIUS (Surprised Stare Games, 3-5 players, ages 12 and up, about 2 hours; about $65) Confucius, the latest board game from Surprised Stare Games, is still fascinating me. The game, designed by Alan Paull, is set in China during the Ming dynasty. The players represent families trying to better themselves within the Confucian system espoused by the Imperial government and court. In ...
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It's Pretty but is it ART...? Everyone is familiar with the age old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? An interesting debate no doubt and one that can keep you scratching your head for the answer. But when it comes to games, the question morphs into another puzzler: which comes first, the art or the game play? Art is an intrinsic and ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy FOR SALE (Gryphon Games, 3-6 players, ages 8 and up, 20-30 minutes; $24.95) For Sale by Stefan Dorra is yet another reissue of a classic game from Gryphon Games. Long time readers of Gamers Alliance Report know For Sale well. It was originally featured over 10 years ago, back in the Fall 1997 issue. Then, when Uberplay re-issued the game with ...
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Reviewed by Andrea "Liga" Ligabue FORMULA D (Asmodee, 2-10 players, ages 10 and up, 60+ minutes; $59.99) Formula D, designed by Eric Randall and Laurent Lavaur, is a new edition of the great Formula Dè, published in 1991, with some small improvements and really great packaging. I'm not in agreement with people neglecting graphics, materials and arts in a game considering these not relevant for ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy GEM DEALER (Gryphon Games, 3-5 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $24.99) Reiner Knizia has carved out for himself an enviable reputation. Not only has he established himself as an acknowledged master of game design, but he has also become the "recycling king". Knizia has shown an uncanny knack for being able to repackage and resell many of his earlier ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy HEADS OF STATE (Eggertspiele/Z-Man Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 90-120 minutes; $70) Uneasy is the head that wears the crown. No truer words have been spoken and you can see why in Heads of State, the new game designed by Peter Hawes, that places players in the roles of heads of noble houses trying to populate Western Europe with ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy HIGH SOCIETY (Gryphon Games, 3-5 players, ages 10 and up, 30-45 minutes; $24.99) Think of yourself as someone in 19th century America who has become wealthy from the booming growth and expansion of these, still young, United States. But money itself is not enough. What you really crave is social distinction and that, you perceive, can be yours if you manage ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (Kosmos/Mayfair Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 60-75 minutes; $49) The science fiction novel Journey to the Center of the Earth by the legendary Jules Verne is a recognized literary classic. Originally penned in 1864, it has been in constant print since, and has spawned no less than five film versions and ...
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(Gryphon Games has released a new string of "bookshelf" games. The new game in the bunch - Roll Through the Ages - is featured this issue. But the line also includes reissues of classic games too. One of them is Money by Reiner Knizia. The only difference between the reissue and the original release is graphic: Gryphon has improved the size of the cards, making ...
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Reviewed by Joe Huber PLANET STEAM (LudoArt, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, 2+ hours; about $100) Computer games tend to have a short lifespan – not much different from most boardgames, actually, but with the added pressure of changing hardware. For a computer game to survive (albeit mostly as a cherished memory) for a quarter of a decade is therefore an incredible accomplishment. But ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy ROLL THROUGH THE AGES (Gryphon Games, 1-4 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $29.95) Second in the new line of Gryphon Bookshelf Games, Roll Through the Ages by Matt Leacock is the only new design among the original five. Since it is sandwiched between games by such formidable designers as Reiner Knizia and Stefan Dorra, you would be forgiven for ...
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Reviewed by Chris Kovac SNOW TAILS (Fragor Games, 2-5 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; about $70) Snow Tails is a fun, quick 2-5 player dog sled racing game. This game by the Lamont Brothers, the quirky Scottish game designers, of Shear Panic (Spring 2006 GA REPORT) and Antler Island fame. The game has fairly good components though the track pieces are a little ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy TELEPATHY (LMD Enterprises, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 15-25 minutes; $24.95) If you look at the box, you might think that this is a game about reading minds or transferring thoughts. If you take a closer look you would notice that statement on the box that Telepathy is "a strategy game combining logic, deduction and more". Although this may sound ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy TEXAS GLORY (Columbia Games, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 1-2 hours; $49.99) Thanks to the efforts of Fess Parker and Walt Disney, kids growing up in the 1950s learned a lot about Texas history watching Davy Crockett battle at the Alamo. Now as adults, they (and other historically minded simulation gamers) can expand their experience with Texas Glory, designed by ...
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