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Just a brief note on overproduction and Kickstarter
As with a lot of KS games, there's a decent amount of unneeded plastic involved, but it's not overwhelming. OTOH, the board itself screams one thing to me: "We want to catch eyes on KS, even if it makes playing the actual game more difficult!" It's a very crowded image that will probably make it more difficult for observers to have any idea what's going on, to say nothing of the actual players whom you'd like to enable to just look at the board and have some kind of strategic assessment. Good luck with that.
But, I'm willing to overlook some production issues if the gameplay is good enough and still involves the Cheshire Cat, so I found a how-to-play video:
Ho. Lee. Shit. This may be the most abominable conflux of DoaM and point salad mechanics I've ever seen. The number of times that Becca Scott had to interject with rules exceptions (accompanied by that glowing smile, kind of like a cat I know...) to even make the rules sound like they work together is insane. But the number of wheels turning in this thing, between tokens, chips, shards, supporters, cards, and dice will surely return the madness to Wonderland. And that's just trying to comprehend the system and all of its little quirks. Did anyone play this with a thought as to what three other players of it might be doing while two players draw chips from their bags for 10 minutes, activating effects with every one, keeping a separate score chart (the strength track) for every one, potentially activating artifacts, losing shards, activating powers, dealing with madness effects, triggering Wonderlander abilities, completing quests, and on and on, with EVERY DRAW?
Most DoaM games have downtime for players not involved in fights, but this sounds, uh, excessive. I usually watch how-to-play videos to get an idea of whether I'd like a game. I come away from the vast majority of them thinking something on a spectrum from: "That sounds cool!" to "Probably not my thing." This is the first time I've come away thinking: "I want nothing to do with that.", even if I was inclined to spend $80 on it, which I'm not.
The Kickstarter process has eliminated the need for playtesting. People kickstart the games (or don't) based on preliminary art, gameplay videos, and overall presentation of components. They can review the game after receiving it, but unless the Kickstarter is popular enough to generate post-Kickstarter print runs for general retail release, the reviews are irrelevant to the sales and profitability of the game. A buyer might get lucky and Kickstart a good game, or might kickstart a loser.
So much indistinguishable, ephemeral garbage. Don’t buy these junk games. You’ll get more out of any of the games sold at Target than you will from this KS boutique shit. I honestly don’t even keep up with any of this anymore, I couldn’t tell you what the hot KS campaigns are other than that CMON Marvel one which the best thing I can say about is “really?”
Let the suckers and the rubes back this crap. The best ones- which are outliers to the norm- will make themselves known.
If you want an Alice in Wonderland-like game, get Garden of Ynn. It’s a $8 PDF or a $15 POD. It’s more in the spirit of Lewis Carrol than this garbage. It’s an RPG setting (mostly random tables) but you can use a one page rule set like Knave and it’s less overhead or work to play than a board game. Let alone a KS with a shitload of junk content.
So I agree with you Barnes, but here’s a problem. I am pretty plugged in to RPGs and pay way more attention to them than trends in the boardgame space. I check RPGgeek and RPG.net daily, BGG maybe twice a week at most. Plus rpg blogs, twitter, Reddit, etc.
And I’ve never heard of Gardens of Ynn! That is one advantage of Kickstarter; it rewards big productions. Which few, if any, RPGs qualify for — especially those in the OSR/DIYD&D space.
How do those get the visibility and attention they deserve?
I’m about at the point where I have almost no interest in the hobby board games industry at all. Most of the best games right now are at Target. There are exceptions, but I really think you are better off buying a $30 game at Target than any of this crap like this Wonderland thing.
I’ve backed almost 20 RPG products on KS over the past few months and I still haven’t spent half as much as I would on -one- Awaken Realms or CMON game/product line. I’m sure I picked a clunker or two but I’ll just be out $5-$10 instead of trying to unload $200 worth of massive boxes.
It’s such a different world, RPG versus board games. Over there, KS isn’t a vile, excessive machine churning out shit.its a way to get something like Beneath the Floorboards, a game based on The Borrowers/Arriety made for the 200-300 people like me that are really interested in a fringe concept. I backed one solo game where you don’t play a character, you play an artifact and the game becomes the history of it. And then you use it as an item in an RPG game. I put in on another where you use a plain old deck of cards to competitively and narratively build a city of bird people. That’s the whole game or maybe it is a jump off point to create a location for an adventure? Up to you. Are you seeing that kind of creativity or innovation in KS board games? I sure as hell am not, excluding the absolute top tier stuff like Oath.
I’ve also figured out that Half Price Books is where Kickstarter games go to die. Every time I go there I see 3-4 games -I’ve never even heard of-. I look them up and yep, KS.
Garden of Ynn is on DTRPG. It’s almost all random tables so you can generate a weird, psychedelic garden on the fly. The same writer also has a similar book called The Stygian Library. Her stuff is really neat- also does a modern day occult RPG called Esoteric Enterprises that I really want to pick up.
In my experience, RPGs have always been very guilty of releasing product just for "collecting" purporses,. Most RPG supplements simply aren't played. In fact, RPGs are increasingly deluxified with huge rulebooks, unnecessary miniatures and cards and fancy dice that simply aren't needed. It seems to me a gaming, if not society-wide issue.
Michael Barnes wrote: If you want an Alice in Wonderland-like game, get Garden of Ynn. It’s a $8 PDF or a $15 POD. It’s more in the spirit of Lewis Carrol than this garbage. It’s an RPG setting (mostly random tables) but you can use a one page rule set like Knave and it’s less overhead or work to play than a board game. Let alone a KS with a shitload of junk content.
I'm thinking of a simple Wonderland adventure-type game that someplace like Prospero Hall or Days of Wonder might do. Not some dark gritty KS version with 12 extra Mad Hatter miniature poses.
Board gaming is producing more innovative, interesting games than it ever has so, from my perspective, is in the best place it has ever been. Here are some games that came out in the last half decade I consider fascinating and wildly innovative, more interesting mechanically than almost any older game, many through kickstarter:
Seal Team Flix
Food Chain Magnate
Arkham Horror the Card Game
Shadows of Malice
Argent: the Consortium
And the wargame space is filled with big swings, just take a look at the wild ideas on Hollandespiele's website or on GMT's P500 right now (e.g. Weimar Republic 4 player game? New medieval series from the COIN designer?): www.gmtgames.com/s-2-p500.aspx
You could definitely add big bets on innovative games I haven't played like Legacy of Dragonholt (an FFG joint!). Or the stuff by the cave evil/sea evil designer. Or some of the wild ass stuff Zev is doing at Wiz Kids.
The issue, which we both agree on, is discoverability. Sifting through all the failure. But this makes board games the same as every other non-monopolized industry in the 2010s. Including, I would wager, RPGs. Barnes praises RPG innovation, but it's almost certainly drowning in the same tide of shit that board games are---it's just that individual bets by the consumer are much smaller so it feels less bad to get one of the shitty ones.
So what I do is follow reviewers I trust like Wade, Charlie Theel, Dan Thurot, or podcasts like So Very Wrong About Games, who play and review in significant volume but still provide non-"product review" opinions on those games. That's not something that Michael does anymore, and to be crystal clear, I get it---I wouldn't want to provide that service either. Playing so many misses sounds miserable. But that's how I overcome the discoverability problem and I have tons of exciting and mechanically innovative games on my shelf from recent years. But I don't mistake discoverability problems as the decline of the medium, especially when the discoverability problem is now ubiquitous to our lives in almost every area that isn't dominated by, like, Disney.
Love you Michael
Phantom Division will rectify that issue. If it comes together the way I want it to come together, it will be a far better game than its predecessor.
As Gary says, that sphere is no different than board gaming, except when it comes to what is actually purchased (a PDF vs a board and pile of tokens.) But if you're saying that you can get more play time out of a 20-30 page PDF than you can out of my board and pile of tokens, I call "bullshit" on that one. It's all about what people want to commit to. I gave up RPGing a long time ago because I couldn't find a group willing to commit to a regular session- the same people, every week. Plus, I decided I'd rather write those stories in my head and sell them. I can pull a game as complex as Root out and teach it in 1/4 of the time it takes to instruct people on what kind of world they're playing in, what character they're playing, assembling said character, etc. If those people don't show up at the store next week, that game is stalled. If new people show up when I bring Root next week, we can still play a whole game in two hours.
So, yeah, I'm with Gary. I don't think there's any particular model that's superior to another in terms of how people entertain themselves. Millions of Kickstartered PDFs that no one is ever going to use to actually play a game (as opposed to just buying them to read, which is another form of entertainment; see White Wolf example above) is basically the same as the glut of board games that will do nothing but sit on a shelf. My reaction to Wonderland's War was based on what looked like a design clusterfuck and the willingness of people to dive in, anyway. Same thing could happen if someone released a gussied-up RPG through the looking glass...