4 thoughts on “Strategies for Publishing Transformative Board Games”

  1. Thanks for an interesting exploration of the issue, Will.
    About Battle of Seattle: I should point out that Strategist magazine, at the time, had a circulation of 100 copies!
    During the year that I edited that zine, I also ran small games on arms dealing, trench warfare, the Zulu War, submarine warfare, and the Battle of Waterloo (using only 18 counters).
    It ceased production shortly thereafter.
    I put the game up for free print and play on my website, along with a few others (http://www.islandnet.com/~ltmurnau/text/gamescen.htm) , and eventually it was “copylefted” onto some left-wing and anarchist websites.
    I don’t mind.

    For many years I have designed boardgames that are primarily about conflict, but which have a heavy mixture of politics or stress the asymmetry between sides – I have covered some of the nastier kinds of insurgency, in games that are owned by only a few people (hundreds in some cases, dozens in others).

    I have found that wargamers are generally highly intelligent people, but sometimes the use of that intelligence is limited to a narrowly defined range of interests.

    For many of them the game, and winning, is the thing, and whatever conflict the game is supposed to simulate is of secondary importance – a game is a puzzle to be cracked, and rules are to bend until they break.

    For others, the topic is the thing – and they demand ultimate historical versimilitude in “monster games” with thousands of counters – I find it amusing that these kinds of games that deal with the Eastern Front of WW2 are graded for the accuracy of their order of battle, including the regiments and brigades of the Sicherheitsdienst and various SS national contingents – units whose historical function was murder and ethnic cleansing, but who have nothing to do in the game because what designer would write “realistic” rules for that?

    But in the main, I find many wargamers to be simply conservative.
    They like what they like, and they are difficult to move from that entrenchment.
    Likewise, they don’t like what they don’t like – and in large part that includes politics, uncertainty, moral ambiguity, and many other aspects of “real” war and conflict.

    Keep up the good work,

    Brian

  2. Thanks for the further background, Brian! Unfortunately, I think many game players outside of the wargaming sphere also tend to be very conservative, particularly in terms of how they evaluate games.

    Still, as the market for games expands, I think we’re starting to see more and more really interesting experiments. Hopefully, they’ll start to gain traction and we’ll see a new, more political, niche that’s large enough to support designers.

    1. Thanks Will.
      I guess in the end it’s all a snap appraisal – “I don’t know about Art, but I know what I like” does it for most people.
      There are a lot of very interesting cross-pollinations going on in game design now.
      Techniques and methods are proliferating; all too often it seems that games are designed for the mechanics first and then the theme gets slapped on, to the point where reviewers are starting to describe games in shorthand – in terms of genres and references, the way hipsters review music albums: “It’s like if Puerto Rico and Clue had a baby but kept it in Klaus Teuber’s basement and brought it out only at night to feed on trick-taking”. And so on.

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