One of the most pleasurable things I do concerning my involvement with Gamers Alliance is to play games. Love it! Love it! Love it! But with so many games to play, there is the dark side to that pleasure: going through the miles and miles of rules to games so as to learn and lead them correctly. If only there was a way to make this sometimes onerous task easier. Of course, I’m not the only one to feel this way. Recently, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with Gamers Alliance Report contributor Chris Kovac and Chris came up with an intriguing thought: “Why not have universally recognized icons in games?” Now that’s an idea!

With game publishers targeting markets beyond their own nation’s borders, the continuing trend has been to make games language neutral. By avoiding words whenever possible and using icons in their place, gamers in one country lacking fluency in the language of another are not hindered in enjoying a quality game. By removing the language barrier, game professionals have discovered that new markets open, new customers attracted and new profits made. But, as Chris remarked, the icons used to represent similar or even identical actions or abilities in games are often very different. This complicates a simple concept.

Universally recognized icons are nothing new. Music, for example, is often called the “universal language”. By using those black squiggles on lined paper, music can be read and played by anyone in any country familiar with those icons. The Morse Code uses dots and dashes to convert symbols into words and is recognizable across the globe. Surely $ and £ are familiar icons across international boundaries. At an even more basic level, every worldwide traveler can tell which bathroom is for men and which for women just by glancing at the pictographs by their entrances. This has been recognized by others too, and most recently, in the toy sector of the play industry.

The Spanish Toy Research Institute (AIJU) has designed a free, universal iconography for the global toy industry to help simplify the labeling process for manufacturers and make it easier for consumers to understand labels on toys. ICONTOY was designed by experts and tested internationally with more than 2700 consumers and 150 companies and associations around Europe and the US. More than 90 percent of consumers said that universal icons on toy packaging would be useful. The set of 15-20 universal icons provide information on age-grading, technical aspects (sound, use of batteries etc.), educational features and more. As reported by Playthings Magazine, more than 81% of companies surveyed said they considered “the creation of a common iconography for toys to be very useful”.

So, is a universal “iconology” for games on the horizon? My heart says “yes” but my head says “probably not”.

Of course it’s true that some games call for specific attributes in their play that might not be a “universal” fit but many share similar attributes where universal icons could work. But people will often resist change even when change is beneficial. Overcoming inertia is always difficult; why should this be any different? But other factors may be involved here.

Although there are many reasons to grant a game creator/publisher/licensor a proprietary interest in a gaming property, specific icons could be one more factor in making a proprietary claim on a game making those same people reluctant to cede that particular claim to the cause of “universality”. And, admittedly, language and universality don’t always go well together. When was the last time YOU spoke Esperanto? Most importantly, for such an idea to work, you’d need cooperation. In a world where dysfunction has reached a high art form and compromise is a dirty word, that seems unlikely. Still, a good idea is a good idea and, the way I see it, the positives far outweigh any negatives. So…

I offer a “tip of the hat” to Chris Kovac for an excellent idea to make gaming better. Although “jumping on the bandwagon” generally means joining a movement that is already gathering steam and making progress and the idea of “universal icons” is nowhere near that, the bandwagon has to start somewhere. So I’m starting it HERE! Lots of game company designers, executives and influential gamers read GA Report and, in their gaming lives, are in positions where they can do something along these lines (standardize icons in their line of games or in their own designs, for example) if they’re willing to jump on the bandwagon. So here it goes: I second Chris’ motion and give that bandwagon a swift hard push in the right direction. Ladies and gentlemen of the gaming world, we are now on a roll. The rest is up to you.

In this issue of GA REPORT, we fight for king and country, go on quests, build guilds and get fashion fever! Editorial icon Chris Kovac explores Quebec, Joe Huber says “Aloha”, Andrea “Liga” Ligabue takes up space, Ted Cheatham gets it in gear, Pevans simply shows his Napoleonic complex and meets his Waterloo while Greg Schloesser considers whether “it takes a village”. And, of course, much more!

Until next time, Good Gaming!
Herb Levy, President


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Summer 2012 GA Report Articles


Reviewed by Andrea "Liga" Ligaue (Asmodee, 2 to 6 players, ages 12 and up, 120+ minutes; $99.99) “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …”, gamers were looking for a perfect science fiction 4X game (that is, a game of "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate".  It was a time when Avalon Hill releases were eagerly awaited, Stellar Conquest by Metagaming was a ...
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BANDWAGON One of the most pleasurable things I do concerning my involvement with Gamers Alliance is to play games. Love it! Love it! Love it! But with so many games to play, there is the dark side to that pleasure: going through the miles and miles of rules to games so as to learn and lead them correctly. If only there was a way to ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Takamagahara, for 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 90 minutes; about $40) When we are immersed in our game time, enjoying old favorites or new offerings, we sometimes forget that games are also designed outside the borders of America and Europe. As if to remind us of this fact comes Guild, a rather unique card game from Japan by ...
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Reviewed by Joe Huber (Rio Grande Games, 2-5 players, ages 13 and up, 75+ minutes; $39.95 ) One of my favorite activities is playtesting. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, it’s an opportunity to play games, and usually new-to-me games at that, an experience I really enjoy. But unlike playing a published game, there’s often an opportunity to influence the game design, ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Queen Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $64.95) King Henry V, the new ruler of England in 1413, was determined to unite England and defeat France. Players, as leaders of their own noble family, compete to gain the most favor with the King. While the growth of power is not a unique goal in gaming, the ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy LORDS OF WATERDEEP (Wizards of the Coast, 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; $49.99) For decades, Dungeons & Dragons has been synonymous with fantasy roleplaying. So it is all the more interesting when the RPG world of D&D enters the genre of Euro style strategy - and it does in Lords of Waterdeep by the design team ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Ascora Games, 2-6 players, ages 13 and up, 30 minutes; $35) In the genre of science fiction, one of the personalities we love to hate is the "mad scientist". Many of us tend to be fascinated by the visions of the insane inventions such a creative madman strives to bring to life. In recognition of these volatile visionaries, Donald X ...
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WINNING AT WATERLOO - A BATTLE OF TWO HALVES The fifteenth and final scenario in Commands & Colors: Napoleonics is the battle of Waterloo. Or at least the early part of it (11 am - 3 pm), well before the arrival of the Prussians. In this scenario, the brown blocks represent Dutch-Belgian troops rather than Portuguese. A lot of the different types of unit are ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Portal, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 90 minutes; $64.99) This game has an interesting back story. Good games are always fun to play but the best of them always have the serendipitous effect of educating the participants in some way. Apparently, this quality was recognized by the people who run the National Bank of Poland. It seems that ...
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Reviewed by Chris Kovac (Scorpion Masque/Asmodee, 2 to 5 players, ages 13 and up, 90-120 minutes; $59.99) Québec is a five player worker placement medium gamers game with a very light theme of building Quebec City from its founding in 1608 to its 400th anniversary in 2008. The game is designed by the French Canadian game designers Philippe Beaudoir and Pierre Puissant-Marquis. The goal to ...
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Reviewed by Herb Levy (Indie Boards and Cards, 5 to 10 players, ages 13 and up, 30 minutes; $19.99) In a future world, life, as we know it today, has radically changed. It seems that the government in this future is both powerful and corrupt and the people have decided to fight against it by launching a series of missions designed to bring the government ...
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Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser (Eggertspiele/Pegasus Spiele, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 90-120 minutes; $54.90) It takes a village … or does it? Well, let's not discuss the merits of American politician Hillary Clinton's book or theories. Instead, let's discuss the board game Village: As Life Plays Out by designers Inka & Markus Brand. Published by Eggertspiel and Pegasus, Village is another ...
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