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Summer 2010 – Editorial

The Jury Does (NOT) Do It Again

 

If you follow such matters, then you probably know that Dixit has been awarded the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year0 Award this year. Congratulations to all involved with this game. As for the SdJ jury, well, it seems that they have (not) done it again!

When I first discovered Euro style strategy games, I was stunned to discover a whole new world of gaming designed for adults. But I was also stunned to discover how many of these types of games were out there! How were you supposed to differentiate between the good, the bad and the ugly? There were a few gaming magazines around (the fabled Games & Puzzles from the UK was one treasured source) but these publications were often erratic in appearing and varied widely in approach. Was there a reliable source for separating the wheat from the chaff? And then I discovered the Spiel des Jahres.

The Spiel des Jahres Award seemed to epitomize the best in the Euro style of gaming. Here was a group of gamers who understood the qualities of a game that were important to me and the award alerted me to some really terrific games that I might have missed. And the games chosen were excellent. Hare & Tortoise back in 1979, Sid Sackson’s Focus in 1981, El Grande in 1996. But even recent picks (at least, some of them) were quality such as Dirk Henn’s Alhambra in 2003, Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride in 2004 and last year’s Dominion. Dixit is cute but the “BEST” game of the year? The jury has done it again. They have given the award to a game lighter than air! This choice is too close for comfort with the ridiculous choice of Villa Paletti in 2002. The jury has not done it again. They have decided against giving the award to a meatier, more challenging game. In recent years, the SdJ jury has defined “best” in a way alien to my senses (and to the senses of many of us who share a love for Euro style strategy games). This is a problem. But it’s not THEIR problem. It’s OURS!

The “problem” with the SdJ is that WE are dismayed by what it WAS and what it has become. Surprised and too often disappointed but what the SdJ is. As the years have passed, the make up of the jury has changed and with it, their view of what the “best game” of the year no longer dovetails with mine (and possibly, “ours”). For casual gamers, the SdJ logo on a box can generate interest and, more importantly for the publishers and authors, increased sales. Great – for them. But, for me, what I feared has come to pass. The SdJ Award no longer has the weight it once had with me (and, I’m afraid, many gamers like me). No longer will an SdJ award mean an immediate buy for the likes of us. It’s just one more “honor” in a flood of awards given out each year, another drop in the ocean, a sharply devalued valuable award.

Nothing lasts forever and we live in an ever-changing world. Unfortunately, change is not always good.

In this issue of GA REPORT, at least WE do it again in showcasing the best in games as we stop and smell the roses, get industrious, journey to a forbidden island, and find everything just a bit chaotic! Meanwhile Joe Huber tilts at windmills, Andrea “Liga” Ligabue goes back a few centuries, Greg Schloesser goes back to the old homestead and Chris Kovac and Ted Cheatham both go out to sea! Plus, the return of our popular Gamers’ Bookshelf and Game Classics series! And, of course, much more!

Until next time, Good Gaming!

Herb Levy, President

 


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Summer 2010 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by Andrea "Liga" Ligabue (Edicta Edizioni, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes; 12 Euros) In the year 1099, construction started on the Modena Cathedral, the new home for Saint Geminianus, archbishop and patron saint of the town. Contributing to the construction was the architect Lanfranco and the sculptor Wiligelmo and, later, the Campionesi Magisters. In 1997, Modena Cathedral was ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Treefrog Games/distributed in the USA by Mayfair Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 13 and up, 2 hours, about $60) Age of Industry is from prolific game designer Martin Wallace and the first game to appear under the new Treefrog Games label (the imprint replacing the more aggressive sounding Warfrog name). In this release, Wallace continues to explore the railroad game ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Z-Man Games, 3 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 20-30 minutes; $10) Chaos is a clever and aptly named little card game designed by the Valentyne Brothers. Be warned, right from the start, the game packs a lot of action and your sense of order will be shattered! The 58 cards in the deck consist of colored cards (known as ...
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Reviewed by Joe Huber (Edition Perlhuhn, 2 players, ages 8 and up, 15-20 minutes; about 40 Euros) Are games art? This subject sparks occasional debate, and unusually very little in the way of common ground. Many, but by no means all, designers view their work as an artistic expression. But few designers have taken the concept as far as Reinhold Wittig. In 1976, Wittig founded ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Gamewright, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, about 30 minutes; $15.99) Treasure? Danger? Racing against time? These are the ingredients to be found in Forbidden Island, a cooperative game as up to four players explore a mysterious island in search of four treasures, combine their resources to capture those treasures and then attempt to escape from the island before ...
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[Our Game Classics series is a popular one and has been around for decades beginning with our first installment back in the Spring 1989 issue! With this entry, 26th in the continuing series, we revisit one of the great Parker Brothers games from the 1930s that remained popular for decades through several different editions. The game? Boake Carter's Game Star Reporter.] (Parker Brothers, 1937, 1952, ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Tasty Minstrel Games, 3 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 90 minutes; $39.95) Alex Rockwell has developed the reputation on board game internet forums as quite the analytical thinker. He will often conduct an in-depth study of a game, producing lengthy posts or even tomes on a plethora of strategies and tactics that can be implemented. Perhaps his most ...
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Reviewed by Ted Cheatham (Hans im Gluck/Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $34.95) What does a copper kettle company that caters to witches and wizards for a multitude of spell ingredients have in common with the wonderful people of Polynesia, the Maori? The answer? Gunter Burkhardt. On playing Maori, I was readily reminded of Gunter's 2002 Kritikerpreis, Spiele ...
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Reviewed by Chris Kovac Naval warfare has been a theme in war gaming since the earliest days of hobby gaming. One popular sub genre of this is the Naval Card Game. In this article, I am comparing three of the more interesting games in this genre namely Naval War by Avalon Hill (1979), the Modern Naval Battles series by 3W Games (1989-1990) and Dan Verssen ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Gamewright, 4 to 8 players, ages 10 and up, about 30 minutes; $19.99) In the world we live in, it seems that everyone has an opinion and they are never shy about offering advice. Those truisms are the basis for this new party game from Gamewright: Sounds Like a Plan. Sounds Like a Plan is designed by Colleen McCarthy-Evans and Joyce ...
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The Jury Does (NOT) Do It Again If you follow such matters, then you probably know that Dixit has been awarded the Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year0 Award this year. Congratulations to all involved with this game. As for the SdJ jury, well, it seems that they have (not) done it again! When I first discovered Euro style strategy games, I was ...
Read More
THE GAMER'S BOOKSHELF FAMILY GAMES: THE 100 BEST / HOBBY GAMES: THE 100 BEST both volumes edited by James Lowder (Green Ronin Press, 380 pages each, $24.95 each) Reviewed by Herb Levy Anytime you attempt to list the "best" of anything, you are bound to get an argument. Rather than being deterred by such a prospect, James Lowder has embraced it, serving as editor for ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Z-Man Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 180 minutes; $70) Some periods of history captivate the imagination more than others and one such period undergoing a resurgence of interest is England's War of the Roses. This was a time of bitter Civil War between the Houses of Lancaster and York lasting 40 years as these two powerful factions ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Out of the Box Games, 2 to 8 players, ages 12 and up, 20-30 minutes; $24.99) Word games are a challenge. I don't mean playing them (although, of course, there's that). I mean making a word game that is not some clone of Scrabble or Boggle. But Out of the Box has managed to do just that by building on an ...
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