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EDITORIAL – SPRING 2011 – VOL. 2 NO. 38

(Reality) Check, Please

 

Now bear with me on this….

In a recent survey conducted by Siena College of 801 residents of my home state of New York, those asked to name the greatest athlete in New York State history named… (drum roll please)… Derek Jeter! Jeter outpolled Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Joe Namath (who all came in tied at third) and outdistanced Babe Ruth (who finished second). Now, nothing against Jeter. He is a great baseball player, a class act both on and off the field and the current face of the New York Yankees franchise. Popular? For sure. More Jeter jerseys were sold than those of any other major league baseball player in 2010 (according to those who keep track of such stuff for Major League Baseball). But better than Ruth? I’m not a Yankees fan but, really, reality check, please!

You might argue that Ruth was not the greatest hitter of all time despite hitting over 700 home runs and having a .342 lifetime batting average, both pretty incredible! (And Ruth did it without performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, he did it despite heavy drinking and smoking!) But Ruth was something that all the other contenders for “Greatest Hitter of All Time” are not. Ruth was also a Hall of Fame quality pitcher setting World Series records for his hurling, winning 20 games twice and finishing his pitching career winning more than twice as many games as he lost before becoming an everyday hitter! No one, before or since, has come even close to duplicating this double dose of talent. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course, but… How do you account for these strange polling results, this departure from reality? In two words: historical context.

People tend to think the world began when they were born! What’s past is past, dead and buried. If you never saw Ruth play, for many, he doesn’t exist! Pitiful – and a little scary. And it’s going to get worse.

In the current economic climate, while lip service is paid to the value of education, funds for school budgets are being cut by the millions. Money that remains is poured into reading and math classes. Literacy and math skills are vitally important, of course, but what makes them “more important” in today’s “reality” is that reading and math scores are the ones published in the newspapers. With this shift in emphasis, though, something important is lost: history. We don’t live in a bubble. We live in a stream, a stream of events that link us to the past, affect us in the present and carry us to the future. That historical context is being lost. So what does this have to do with games? Plenty!

If history is being ignored or given second class status in our schools, then an intelligent population in order to stay intelligent MUST get their history from other sources. One of these sources is games. Many games put you into historical settings, sometimes exploring unknown territories, sometimes fighting key battles, sometimes acting and reacting to economic twists and turns, sometimes managing the exploits of sports heroes of the past. With games, all of this learning is disguised as fun and, frankly, learning SHOULD BE and IS fun – if it’s done right! Games are a vital tool in repelling the economic attacks on history, serving as a valuable source for getting the history we need, expanding our knowledge and getting our perception of reality checked.

In this issue of GA REPORT, a little history comes to life as we sail to the East for colonies and riches, and take flight to Pluto, smuggle contraband and, as always, throw in a little “extra”! And, just in time for the baseball season (and in turn with the theme of this issue’s editorial), K-ban steps up to the plate with Part III of his baseball game series. Meanwhile, Greg Schloesser explores a lost temple in South American jungles while Nick Sauer tries to build one in ancient Egypt. Pevans sees double in visiting the seashore, Joe Huber enjoys some quality family time, Greg Schloesser does a little exploring. Chris Kovac innovates and Andrea “Liga” Ligabue is, as always, a towering presence. And, of course, much more!

Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President


 

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Spring 2011 GA Report Articles

 

A Tale of Two Resorts Pevans compares Key West and Sun, Sea & Sand KEY WEST (Spiele-Idee, 3 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; about $35) SUN, SEA & SAND (Cwali, 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 60 minutes; $46.99) A couple of months ago I realised that I had two games in my bag with a similar theme. Both ...
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Reviewed by Andrea "Liga" Ligabue ASARA (Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 9 and up, 45-60 minutes; $59.95) I’ve not always been a Ravensburger fan. Several of their recent releases haven't pleased me so I was not particularly attracted to Asara. On the other hand, sometimes Ravensburger does publish really top-level hits and Asara is, after all, a Wolfgang Kramer-Michael Kiesling design. Kramer ...
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Baseball on the Table-top - Part III Games of the 70's by K-ban The annual rite of Baseball’s Spring Training is a period where hope springs eternal. Looking in the rear view mirror, we know how last season went for the home team. Is it time for the GM to tinker and make minor changes/improvements to the roster (trades, free agents, bringing players up from ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy CARGO NOIR (Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, 60 minutes; $50) Cargo noir is the French term for contraband and it's contraband that players will be attempting to collect in Cargo Noir, the new, big box game from Days of Wonder, designed by Serge Laget. The board is created by placing Macao (the centerpiece) on the table and ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy CHARON INC. (Gryphon Games, 2-5 players, ages 13 and up, 60 minutes; $39.99) The possibilities of outer space reach farther than the probabilities of alien life forms residing there. There are also the possibilities of rich resources ready to be claimed for the skillful and adventurous. That is the premise of Charon Inc. as players are heads of mega-corporations seeking to ...
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(Reality) Check, Please Now bear with me on this.... In a recent survey conducted by Siena College of 801 residents of my home state of New York, those asked to name the greatest athlete in New York State history named... (drum roll please)... Derek Jeter! Jeter outpolled Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Joe Namath (who all came in tied at third) and outdistanced Babe Ruth ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy EXTRA! (Schmidt Spiele, 1-6 players, ages 8 and up, about 10 minutes; about $15) Dice have always been a staple of gaming. "Roll and move" is one of the earliest game mechanisms to appear. But, as readers of GA Report have long come to realize, dice rolls need not be limited to such a prosaic role in games. To illustrate that ...
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Reviewed by Joe Huber FAMIGLIA (2-F Spiele/Rio Grande Games, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; $11.95) Essen 2010 was a very good time for Friedemann Friese, as it saw the release of more than a half dozen games Friese designed. But while this is an impressive accomplishment – particularly as nearly all of the games were picked up by outside publishers – it ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy FÜRSTENFELD (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 13 and up, 60 minutes; $59.95) The World of Games is filled with colorful characters. Friedemann Friese is one of those characters - and his color is green. You can easily spot him in a crowd; he's the guy with the green hair! You can generally spot one of this game designs too as ...
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Reviewed by Chris Kovac INNOVATION (Asmadi Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 30 minutes; $25) Innovation is a civilization building themed card game, designed by Carl Chudyk (of Glory to Rome fame). The game is a medium length gamer's game which plays in about 30 minutes to an hour depending upon the draw of the cards and the skill of the players ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy NAVEGADOR (PD-Verlag/Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 12 and up, about 90 minutes; $59.95) Although he himself never journeyed on unknown seas, Prince Henry of Portugal inspired and encouraged his nation to sail outward to increase its prestige, power and riches. Because of this support, he earned the nickname "The Navigator" and both his portrait and his sobriquet are appropriated for ...
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EXCERPTS FROM THE SPRING 2001 GA REPORT Reviewed by Herb Levy SAN MARCO (Ravensburger; $35) Alan Moon has found a great deal of success in revisiting games, giving them a twist , and making them his own. Inspired by Sid Sackson's Acquire, Moon came up with Airlines which he then again reworked into Union Pacific. Wolfgang (and Ursula) Kramer's Wildlife Adventureserved to inspire Moon's Santa ...
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Reviewed by Nick Sauer SOBEK (GameWorks/Asmodee, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, 40 minutes; $24.99) Sobek, a card game by Bruno Cathala and published by GameWorks, takes us back to ancient Egypt where players take on the role of merchants trying to profit from the new temple being built to the crocodile deity of the same name. While I am a fan of Egyptian themed ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy TELESTRATIONS (USAopoly, 4-8 players, ages 12 and up, less than 60 minutes; $29.99) When you were a kid, and if you were like me, then you probably played a game called "Telephone". You remember how it went, right? You would start out with a phrase, whisper it into the ear of the person next to you who, in turn, would whisper ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser TIKAL II: THE LOST TEMPLE (GameWorks, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; $59.99) As I’ve mentioned many times previously, I am a big fan of most of the designs of Wolfgang Kramer. I particularly enjoy the results of the collaborations between Kramer and Michael Kiesling. When they endeavor to produce a deeper strategy game, the result ...
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