January 9, 2005

Interesting Article by Lewis Pulsipher

by Susan Rozmiarek

Lewis Pulsipher, the designer of Britannia, posted this long and very interesting article, "An attempt to explain why (and how) boardgaming has changed in the past twenty years," on the BoardGameDesign Yahoo group. I found it on his website as well.

He makes a lot of observations about younger people and society today that are spot-on. He also has some other articles on his website that look interesting, although I haven't had a chance to read them yet.

One passage that jumps out at me on a personal level is this one:

"We are also seeing the effects of the "cult of the new". Something is necessarily better because it's new, in this view. Certainly, makers of general-market retail products seem to think "new" means more sales, so they tout "new taste", "new design", etc. on their boxes, even when they've made no practical changes. Occasionally this "new" strategy backfires, as in the "New Coke" fiasco. But even in gaming I understand that the "cult of the new" is reflected in very short shelf lives for games sold in hobby stores. And it appears to me that most Euro-style gamers get restless after playing the same game several times, and want to play something else. There are MANY more wargame titles available now than 20-25 yeas ago, but virtually none of them sells very well compared to that older time".

Moving on to the latest and greatest games, leaving yesterday's gems languishing behind on the shelves, is something that I'm always fighting. My group goes through new games with unbridled glee, and I'm easily swept right along with them. I own very few games that I feel I have fully explored, which is a real shame.

One fun (I hope) exercise that I'm planning to do this year was suggested by someone (Jon Theys?) on Spielfrieks. I'm going to go through the alphabet, two weeks per letter, and play at least one game with a name starting with that letter. When I first read this idea, I thought it rather silly. After looking at all the "A" games in my collection, I realized that this is an opportunity to get me to focus on some older games and gives me an excuse to get them to the table.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at January 9, 2005 7:41 PM


At the Tri-Valley Boardgamers (SF Bay Area), we're doing that as well, though we're only going with one letter per week. We weren't sure if we'd be able to keep a favorite game off the table for 10 months just because its title begins with a 'S', for example. But last week was Atlantic Star, which was quite enjoyable, and this week the 'B's hit the table. I'll be bringing Bean Trader, Burn Rate, and Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond. (Note that not all games brought will be played. Heh.)

Posted by: Dave Wilson on January 9, 2005 8:59 PM

Atlantic Star (okay, Showmanager) was okay when I played it. I could see there was a game there, and it entertained most of us. I just wasn't that thrilled by it.

Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond has been re-released recently, with full-color nice cards, and a couple of rules tweaks that make me willing to give it a second try. Last time I tried it, oh, four, five years ago, we were all over the map, with ratings from 4 to 9.

Burn Rate is a lot of fun with the right crowd, and I was happy to trade for a copy. I gave it to a buddy at work who was incredibly stoked about the theme.

I read Lewis Pulsifer's essay and enjoyed it. On PC vs. console: Consoles don't crash. PC's do. Console games are tradeable, PC games less so (yes, a function of the market).

As for the games unplayed on my shelf (Hare and Tortoise, Aladdin's Dragons, Dragonland, Jacob Marley Esq., etc.), I am going to resist buying anything new, hopefully until June or so. I have been aching to get Ticket To Ride, but my wife and I are playing San Juan four or five times a week, and Christmas is over, so no need for a novice-friendly game.

Posted by: Todd Derscheid on January 9, 2005 10:37 PM

It is kind of funny. When I was a kid I could play Monopoly, Risk, Rummy or some such crud over and over, even though there was no real strategy to explore. Didn't even realize the games were crud.

Now, I find a gem like T&E and I'm lucky to play 3-4 times a year. Puerto Rico is better, probably averaged a game a month for the last couple years. I've had Blokus and Taj Mahal sitting unplayed for months now.

Posted by: Coldfoot on January 14, 2005 7:15 PM

Many More Games

Indeed, 30 years ago there were about 750 board wargames. My count from Pimper's All the World's Wargames I-VI (I confess. I cheat; I have the draft of the last two available) shows that there are now around 3800 board wargames, of which I can directly verify from my collection the existence of perhaps 3200 of them.

Posted by: George Phillies on January 15, 2005 6:07 PM

There is a lot of comment about the Pulsipher at Chris Farrell's blog.


Posted by: Iain on January 20, 2005 6:52 AM

Chris Farrell's comments are very interesting. He is looking at the article from a totally different perspective than me, which isn't surprising. I've never been part of the wargame scene and know practically nothing about it. So, I can't comment about how and why it in particular has changed.

I look at Lewis'comments in a much broader way, to include not just "gamers" (however you define that term), but people in general in today's society. Video games are enormously popular, but there are only a handful of us who prefer board games. Why? I thought Lewis gave some compelling reasons. Remember, I am including the general population here, not just gamers. I certainly didn't agree with all of his reasons, particularly the sweeping generational differences.

The whole article did sound like an old geezer rant, but he did make some good points, IMHO.

Posted by: Susan on January 21, 2005 10:44 AM
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