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TOPIC: Pax Emancipation

Pax Emancipation 14 Feb 2018 14:39 #263613

FWIW, I can actually claim scholarly expertise in the subject of Pax Ren and to a lesser extent Pax Porfiriana. It makes his sources especially appear especially niche in his rulebooks, they would be at home at our local Koch Brothers Free Enterprise Institute on campus. Don't ask. (That doesn't mean you need to listen to me, btw, that's not what I'm saying)

As Paul mentioned upthread, in the Pax series there's a weird disconnect between his libertarian sources and then the way the game plays out. I won't rehash it here, but Pax Ren for example plays out as a pretty straightforward, mainstream political economy story about European development that *bears almost no resemblance* to the banker/capitalist orgasm in the footnotes in the rulebook.

Pax Porfiriana, also, *in game* is sort of an interesting story about opportunism and elite agency in a period of state weakness. In particular, the way the game state (depression and order, extraction and imperialism) facilitates some actors and sabotages others is an interesting little model.

Also, 100% seconded on the great man in history approach represented by the cards in the Pax series. But that is a super, super common perception among the public at large. So I'm not sure if that represents his perspective or just playing to an audience to get people interested.
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Pax Emancipation 14 Feb 2018 14:45 #263615

Unicron wrote:
He is a good designer, but the rules are often dogshit, and his designs are aggravating to teach. I have not enjoyed any of his games, and they all suffer from unintuitive graphic design, poor production quality and useless player aids. There are clever elements to all of his designs that I’ve seen, but they don’t culminate into a game that I find engaging or accessible to other players.

Also, this is the baseline for all of my comments about these games though I like them better than some of you all.
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Pax Emancipation 14 Feb 2018 14:49 #263617

Unicron wrote:
Shellhead wrote:
I really don't understand the Cult of Phil. He makes shelf toads and writes terrible rulebooks, and hold some peculiar personal beliefs. Is there something I'm missing?

He is a good designer, but the rules are often dogshit, and his designs are aggravating to teach. I have not enjoyed any of his games, and they all suffer from unintuitive graphic design, poor production quality and useless player aids. There are clever elements to all of his designs that I’ve seen, but they don’t culminate into a game that I find engaging or accessible to other players.

Part of the difficulty in teaching his games is the dogshit rules. But the obscure subject matter along with the unique mechanisms for each game are also contributing factors. Berg games were like this - each had a fair amount of chrome making it hard to apply rules from one game to another.

The graphic design is an issue - we started using tokens to track Prestige Points since they were hard to discern across the table. Its worse with PAX REN as there are different types of Victory conditions.

All that aside, I've gotten in over 60 games of PAX PORF and a half dozen games of REN . PAMIR is somewhat harder for me to grasp, but I am interested in revisiting it.
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Pax Emancipation 14 Feb 2018 15:19 #263618

Gary Sax wrote:
Also, 100% seconded on the great man in history approach represented by the cards in the Pax series. But that is a super, super common perception among the public at large. So I'm not sure if that represents his perspective or just playing to an audience to get people interested.

I wouldn't even go so far as to call it a deliberate perspective. Pax games do it, but so do games like Here I Stand and the entire COIN series. It's a method to attach some concreteness to an otherwise bland "3ops revolution" card. Put a name and a picture on it.

I can't speak to if Phil Eklund really subscribes to the "Great Man" theory, or Ed Beach, or Volko Ruhnke for that matter. But their games certainly use it, because it's a convenient mechanic to hang a game on. Even if you don't believe in it, it's a hard thing to try to design around. It makes for good games, but bad history.

(still okay with that!)

Thirded (or more) on the dogshit rules. They are quite bad, but I'll cut some slack here because of the specific way the games are designed. The Pax games in particular are all comprised of interlocking mechanisms. It's what attracts me to the games. Everything is interconnected. so the win conditions shift based on how the game has played out so far. What you need depends on what other people are doing.

But, because everything is interconnected, "where do I start" is a real problem both in writing and teaching. You don't win by getting 20VP, or even by getting more VP. So you can't really start with "how to win", because it requires that you understand how to move. Starting with "how to move" is alright, but then you get "why?" questions. "Why buy cards?" "When should I sell cards?", then "how do locations work?" (different in each game). What does "X" mean. Flip back and forth.

So when you've internalized the rules, it's a fantastic little push-me-pull-you scenario where everything makes sense. From the learning or teaching perspective, it's a nightmare. When I'm teaching these games, I often say "You won't get any of it until all of it clicks. Then it's a great system, and pretty easy to play."

And some people are just never going to like that.
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Pax Emancipation 15 Feb 2018 06:51 #263644

I would rate myself as a fairly big Eklund fan. It doesn't mean I like everything of his that I have played, though.

But I am past 40 games of High Frontier now (since I first got a copy about 7 years ago), and even with me having 35+ years in the hobby, High Frontier is clearly one of the most fascinating games I have ever played. It's a fantastic "mad scientist" kind of game, and I consider it Phil's masterpiece.

Origins: How We Became Human is not quite in the same league, but I still find it absolutely fascinating.

Ironically, most of his newer games I only find so-so: Greenland, Neanderthal, and the Pax games all represent steps towards more playability and cleaner mechanisms, but it's as if they lose a bit of the "madness" in the process.
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Pax Emancipation 15 Feb 2018 08:20 #263655

indianajens wrote:
I would rate myself as a fairly big Eklund fan. It doesn't mean I like everything of his that I have played, though.

But I am past 40 games of High Frontier now (since I first got a copy about 7 years ago), and even with me having 35+ years in the hobby, High Frontier is clearly one of the most fascinating games I have ever played. It's a fantastic "mad scientist" kind of game, and I consider it Phil's masterpiece.

Origins: How We Became Human is not quite in the same league, but I still find it absolutely fascinating.

Ironically, most of his newer games I only find so-so: Greenland, Neanderthal, and the Pax games all represent steps towards more playability and cleaner mechanisms, but it's as if they lose a bit of the "madness" in the process.

I only played Origins once, but I'd love to revisit it. The one play was pretty brutal - long rules explanation ( a rare time I didn't read the rules ahead of time for such a complex and unusual game ) and once gameplay started, after a few hours I realized an early game bad decision kind of doomed me. It was my first encounter with an Eklund game . Some of the concepts such as brain function made its way into Neanderthal.
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Pax Emancipation 15 Feb 2018 10:54 #263674

I have origins on my shelf and have never been able to get it to the table.
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Pax Emancipation 15 Feb 2018 11:02 #263677

Gary Sax wrote:
I have origins on my shelf and have never been able to get it to the table.

Seems to be fetching just under $100 on the secondary market. Given the current wave of Eklund mania now might be a good time to sell.

spielboy.com/GeekPrices.php?gameID=29256
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Pax Emancipation 15 Feb 2018 12:55 #263688

I actually have the bios/origins with expansion double pack which might be worth even more. It would require surrendering the dream of playing it and admit its toad-dom, however.
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Pax Emancipation 16 Feb 2018 01:15 #263717

Msample wrote:
The one play was pretty brutal - long rules explanation ( a rare time I didn't read the rules ahead of time for such a complex and unusual game ) and once gameplay started, after a few hours I realized an early game bad decision kind of doomed me.
Yeah, that does sound like Origins. The rules have a lot of unusual abstractions that you are not used to seeing in a "civilization" game, but once you wrap your head around them, it's not too bad. And like most Eklund games, Origins is very chaotic: You just have to ride the wave as best you can, and hope for the best. That's funny sometimes, and extremely frustrating at others - you never know. ;-)

My history with Origins is a bit unusual: I first got a copy of the game (including the Era 4 expansion) back in 2008, but I didn't get it to the table straight away. Instead, I read reviews saying how chaotic it was, and when I realized Phil had based a lot of the "science" in the game on the "bicameral mind" theory, I decided that enough was enough, and sold the game without ever trying it.

But then some years passed. I had played High Frontier and loved it, and was beginning to wonder if maybe I had made the wrong decision selling my copy of Origins. I considered getting another copy, but of course in the meantime the game had sold out, and second-hand copies were hard to get. In 2014 I finally managed to get a copy of the game, but it cost a lot more than I had gotten when I sold my first copy - and this new copy did not include the expansion.

This time I played the game, and I loved it. All's well that ends well, right? Except I didn't have the expansion anymore...

Fast-forward to last summer: A local player here in Denmark puts his copy of Origins up for sale. I ask whether it includes the expansion. His answer: "I don't know, I have never played it, but I bought it from you, so you should know!"

So for the third time, I bought a copy of Origins. :)
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Pax Emancipation 16 Feb 2018 10:30 #263749

indianajens wrote:
Fast-forward to last summer: A local player here in Denmark puts his copy of Origins up for sale. I ask whether it includes the expansion. His answer: "I don't know, I have never played it, but I bought it from you, so you should know!"

The toadness, it runs deep. Did you pay extra for him to store it for you, or buy it back cheaper than you sold it for?
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Pax Emancipation 16 Feb 2018 17:47 #263796

Not Sure wrote:
indianajens wrote:
Fast-forward to last summer: A local player here in Denmark puts his copy of Origins up for sale. I ask whether it includes the expansion. His answer: "I don't know, I have never played it, but I bought it from you, so you should know!"

The toadness, it runs deep. Did you pay extra for him to store it for you, or buy it back cheaper than you sold it for?
I paid extra, of course. ;-)
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Pax Emancipation 14 Aug 2018 16:22 #279786

Count Orlok wrote:
As for this game, I would be interested if it was basically anyone other than him. However, Eklund has shown himself to be an untrustworthy and unethical researcher, and I simply can't overlook that for a game no matter how good. Someone posted a "conversation" Eklund was in concerning climate change on bgg, and his complete unwillingness to weigh or engage with evidence contrary shows a complete lack of scruples that would fail pretty much any undergraduate student research paper.

To whit:

www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/257732/p...keditems/accessories

Including such gems as:

"I believe in objective morality, see the short essay "What is Morality" on page 19 of Book II in Pax Emancipation."

"On the other hand, identity blur, overreliance on technology, suicide, hikikomori, future shock, eco-collapse, overpopulation, global warming, Y2K, grey goo, skynet, outbreaks, cancer, weaponized propaganda, clockwork orange punitive measures, subjugation of humanity to robotic masters, "excessive consumer choice", fertility crisis, predatory pricing, job taken by robotics, etc. are definitely part of the game, not so much as disasters in themselves, but as fabricated crises enabling tyrants to seize control."

Yeah, transhumanity now a skip for me. No way I'm touching Emancipation either. To each their own, of course.
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Pax Emancipation 14 Aug 2018 16:37 #279788

Yeah, after reading that thread a couple of days ago, I lost interest in giving any money toward anything else he designs. Books and films are one thing... They give me interpretive space to deconstruct, etc. But playing around with “proof of concept” models built by a brain that has such ridiculous fallacies embedded in it just does not appeal to me. I don’t want to enact whatever flawed proof is baked into the design. That’s just didacticism and propaganda cloaked in a game & I have better things to do with my time.
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Pax Emancipation 14 Aug 2018 17:50 #279795

Gary Sax wrote:
Count Orlok wrote:
As for this game, I would be interested if it was basically anyone other than him. However, Eklund has shown himself to be an untrustworthy and unethical researcher, and I simply can't overlook that for a game no matter how good. Someone posted a "conversation" Eklund was in concerning climate change on bgg, and his complete unwillingness to weigh or engage with evidence contrary shows a complete lack of scruples that would fail pretty much any undergraduate student research paper.

To whit:

www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/257732/p...keditems/accessories

Including such gems as:

"I believe in objective morality, see the short essay "What is Morality" on page 19 of Book II in Pax Emancipation."

"On the other hand, identity blur, overreliance on technology, suicide, hikikomori, future shock, eco-collapse, overpopulation, global warming, Y2K, grey goo, skynet, outbreaks, cancer, weaponized propaganda, clockwork orange punitive measures, subjugation of humanity to robotic masters, "excessive consumer choice", fertility crisis, predatory pricing, job taken by robotics, etc. are definitely part of the game, not so much as disasters in themselves, but as fabricated crises enabling tyrants to seize control."

Yeah, transhumanity now a skip for me. No way I'm touching Emancipation either. To each their own, of course.

Yikes. Every time he posts something, I feel retroactively bad for preordering the first edition of High Frontier.
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