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Bugs: Recent Topics Paging, Uploading Images & Preview (11 Dec 2020)

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× Talk about whatever you like related to games that doesn't fit anywhere else.

Tabletop game reviews enjoyed lately thread

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14 Aug 2021 12:18 - 14 Aug 2021 12:21 #325588 by Gary Sax
Good posts.

I'm a broken record here, but the best game I've played that heavily touches on colonialism is historical, Comancheria. Check out Dan's post on that game: spacebiff.com/2021/07/02/comancheria/

I consider it the model for taking colonialism seriously. It refuses to have a simplistic message. I'd say the wargame space is the most serious about not greenwashing to treat real shit directly, but a lot of the wargame oeuvre does a horrible job with these sorts of topics. But I will say you are do have publication space to literally just try to portray these topics in that space, bad or good job (eg imperial struggle).
Last edit: 14 Aug 2021 12:21 by Gary Sax.
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14 Aug 2021 13:58 #325591 by ChristopherMD
Greenwashing is when companies try to convince people their products are environmentally safe when they really aren't. It does not mean when aliens replace humans as the villains. If you're going to make up a word for what you want to say, please make sure to check if that word already has a meaning. I was disappointed starting the article because I expected it would be more about how fucking horrible the game industry is for the environment.
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14 Aug 2021 14:51 - 14 Aug 2021 14:51 #325593 by Gary Sax
Yes, I was using his term but I agree he's better off using tentacle-washing or something.
Last edit: 14 Aug 2021 14:51 by Gary Sax.

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19 Aug 2021 16:15 - 19 Aug 2021 16:16 #325837 by DarthJoJo
Dan Thurot mentioned this series on Roman gladiators in his most recent preview essay for Patreon backers. I haven’t read all of it yet myself but have appreciated what I have seen. I know colonialism is the hot button setting in board games right now, but I wonder if this blog might not offer a more effective entry point for discussing the unsavory parts of history in our games. It’s a bit more distant temporally, and there aren’t any gladiator games with the same fans as Puerto Rico. Could offer a cooler starting point.
Last edit: 19 Aug 2021 16:16 by DarthJoJo.
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19 Aug 2021 19:37 #325839 by Erik Twice
They are good articles, thanks for sharing them DarthJoJo.

Funnily enough, I don't have much to say about them. I just agree. Ultimately, games tend to try their settings like a theme park would and run head first into all sorts of problems. You could make a similar series of articles with pirates or the Italian-American mafia. Seeing the "diverse" cover of Gladius made me think of Empire of Sin which gives your male mafiosi the chance to fall in love with each other. After all, they might be murderers, crooks and thieves but they believe women and respect each other pronouns.

I remember Spartacus was controversial because it has a card called "Jupiter's cock". There was the usual thread on BGG on how to make the game family-friendly but of murdering people never seems to come up. In fact, the article talks a bit too much about slaves as if you could consent to gladiator combat. To me it's like consenting to selling your organs, it's a gross violation of human rights.

Interestingly enough and even though it's very "remote", one of the two games that makes me uncomfortable to the point of not wanting to play is The Last Day Of Pompey. It's simply gross to take a tragedfy where hundreds died and make it a funny game where you throw people in the volcano ha-ha-ha. It belongs in the same garbage can as those Titanic novelty items as far as I'm concerned.

---

What worries me about this topic is that this is not an artistic examination. It's a blunt political or cultural one that does not take much interest in how games work or their potential to cover topics in the same manner as literature or film. I see the potential for many false positives. I recently saw a thread where people talked about how it was "wrong" you didn't pay your workers in Food Chain Magnate and asked for a expansion that gave them a union. In fact, I've seen a very large number of people argue against FCM for "whitewashing" the game industry. I remember Chris Farrel, who is not any random dumbass, say that the game portrayed a "romanticised view of the fast-food bussiness" and "glorified it".

If that's the level of discourse, we are in for a rough ride.
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19 Aug 2021 20:11 #325842 by DarthJoJo

Erik Twice wrote: What worries me about this topic is that this is not an artistic examination. It's a blunt political or cultural one that does not take much interest in how games work or their potential to cover topics in the same manner as literature or film.

That's the challenge. In this most recent essay, Thurot mentions people decrying John Company as colonial.
Which it absolutely is. That's the point. That's the argument it's making, and there's a lot more that it has to say after that.

I understand why people make these analyses. They're easy. They don't require more than the most surface level understanding of a game. Unfortunately, it's the same quality of analysis you could apply to a t-shirt. Most board games deserve better.
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20 Aug 2021 02:38 #325853 by Not Sure

DarthJoJo wrote: I understand why people make these analyses. They're easy. They don't require more than the most surface level understanding of a game. Unfortunately, it's the same quality of analysis you could apply to a t-shirt. Most board games deserve better.


(bold mine for emphasis)

I don't think they do, though. I think the vast majority are at a t-shirt level (often literally, like "Cthulhu plus kittens! OMG!"), or are just barely enough art to wrap around a simple math puzzle.

There are games that step beyond this, but not that many, and so the level of discourse tends to remain exactly where I'd expect it to be. I'm consistently impressed by Dan Thurot (and Charlie and a few others) for getting nuance out of an industry that for the most part operates at around the level of breakfast cereal.
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20 Aug 2021 04:15 #325855 by Erik Twice

DarthJoJo wrote: That's the challenge. In this most recent essay, Thurot mentions people decrying John Company as colonial.
Which it absolutely is. That's the point. That's the argument it's making, and there's a lot more that it has to say after that.

For many, the whole topic just shouldn't be covered at all.

Many people just don't think there should be games on colonialism or with Nazis or with any other topic they consider inappropiate. It's not normally said out loud, but it's implied or simply assumed. The reasons vary but they all have the same anti-artistic roots, from believing that playing a game makes us "active participants" in what they depict, that games are meant to be fun, that the topic is not "inclusive" or anything of the sort. After all the Atlantic article was called "The Board Games that ask you to Reenact Colonialism" and another article complained about turning "colonialism into entertainment". That it's "gamyfying history" or whatever.

Frankly, the whole topic just reminds me of why we should ban Bonny and Clyde
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20 Aug 2021 05:38 #325856 by mads b.
One of the differences between slavery in ancient Rome and more recent slavery and colonialism is, I believe, that people living today aren't affected by or suffering from the consequences of Roman slavery. The same can not be said of colonialism and Atlantic slavery which very much have prensent day ramifications.

That does not make gladiators and slavery any less repulsive if you really look at it, but it does mean that it's more of a fictionalized space. It is litteraly ancient history.
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20 Aug 2021 09:01 - 20 Aug 2021 09:03 #325858 by Sagrilarus
Boardgames are an art form like any other, and yeah, 90% of everything is crap. But I had a detailed discussion with friends while playing An Infamous Traffic (Wehrle, a pre-cursor to John Company) about what was being depicted. The British kicked off the opium war to correct a trade imbalance with China, which, well, jeeze, is about as despicable as you can get.

The point isn't the theme, it's the discussion it engendered. Halfway through the game we were on wikipedia learning a lot of new things about history. The game was a vehicle for that education, and frankly Wehrle's handling of the thematic elements really kind of leaned into the absurdity and the evil of the moment. Victory points are represented by trinkets, stupid little things, nice hats, seats on a board, empty titles, which go to those who addict the most human beings in a faraway land. Yeah, you're playing the baddies, but it doesn't trivialize the subject matter.

And I think that's a big part of determining what is appropriate for the art form. Even a subject as taboo as the heroin trade into China can be represented, if everyone involved is fully in on the joke. We're playing this, it's fucked up, damn. This is what humans do to each other for gold. If that part of the setting is fully represented and the designer makes it stick, then the game is having an appropriate emotional impact. It's teaching. It is an agent for generating conversation and understanding.

I think those games are few and far between. But they're out there.
Last edit: 20 Aug 2021 09:03 by Sagrilarus.
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20 Aug 2021 09:09 #325860 by Jackwraith
I would suggest "few and far between" in terms of actual number, based on the ridiculous glut that's out there, but maybe more prominent by impact or notoriety? Heralded as one of the best games on BGG for years now, Twilight Struggle is a pretty brilliant rendition of what was, overall, a detestable decades-long power play between two international bullies. I've spoken to a number of people who were made aware of a lot of 20th-century history just from playing that game. I think a number of GMT's more recent releases could fit that appraisal, like Gandhi. I think the people automatically labeling certain games in the fashion that Erik cites are the same kind of people who dismiss music/movies/books/whatever that they don't like or often have never heard of. It's not unique to games. It's just your average short-sightedness or discomfort with the unknown. I know someone who reflexively dismissed Twilight Struggle as a "wargame" but who loves playing Root. I had to point a few things out to her...
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20 Aug 2021 09:58 - 20 Aug 2021 10:36 #325863 by DarthJoJo

Not Sure wrote:

DarthJoJo wrote: I understand why people make these analyses. They're easy. They don't require more than the most surface level understanding of a game. Unfortunately, it's the same quality of analysis you could apply to a t-shirt. Most board games deserve better.


(bold mine for emphasis)

I don't think they do, though. I think the vast majority are at a t-shirt level (often literally, like "Cthulhu plus kittens! OMG!"), or are just barely enough art to wrap around a simple math puzzle.

We can quibble about whether it’s a 50/50 split on how many games seek to be art/entertainment (or 5/95). I certainly won’t argue that Patchwork or Azul aren’t seeking to be art beyond their aesthetics, but if our attitude going in is that board games don’t deserve deeper thought and reflection then we are doing the designers and ourselves a disservice.

Further thoughts: Take the Arkham Horror LCG. On the one hand it is literally Cthulhu with cats (there are seven cat allies in the game though the most famous member of the mythos hasn’t made his appearance yet). The nun with a shotgun is a viable build. This is pulp fluff, but it still deserves thought.

Consider the Lovecraft source. Every few months that comes up on the Facebook group and turns into the same argument. A similar thing appeared here in response to the Unfathomable announcement. To my knowledge Fantasy Flight has never made any official statement or policy on this, though I feel like the lead designer once said on a podcast something along the lines of the Arkham Horror Files universe being bigger than Lovecraft, encompassing more genres and writers.

Still, they are aware of this history and ongoing discussion. How do I know? Because in the years since the LCG launched, they have created just one white male. There has been a deaf African woman engineer, a lesbian Latina mechanic, a Korean boxer, a trans letter carrier that doesn’t look white, a woman Hawaiian ship captain, a non-binary master-at-arms and others. Is this a good way to respond today to a man whose writing was based on fears of race and miscegenation? I don’t have firm thoughts, but it deserves discussion even if Arkham Horror isn’t John Company or The Cost.
Last edit: 20 Aug 2021 10:36 by DarthJoJo.
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20 Aug 2021 10:12 #325865 by DarthJoJo

mads b. wrote: One of the differences between slavery in ancient Rome and more recent slavery and colonialism is, I believe, that people living today aren't affected by or suffering from the consequences of Roman slavery. The same can not be said of colonialism and Atlantic slavery which very much have prensent day ramifications.

I would argue that the consequences of Roman slavery and expansion do still reverberate today at the fundamental levels of language and religion for an entire continent (whether that’s suffering and oppression is another question), but that’s my point. Romans did own slaves and did make them fight to the death for entertainment. These are pretty clearly vile things yet there are a fair number of games that allow you to participate in this at different levels. However, because it’s ancient history, like you said, we can have a more cool-headed discussion on it, what’s right and wrong and what makes us uncomfortable. Then, once we have some sort of foundation, we can talk more productively and openly about games that feature or elide slavery in the Americas or colonialism. That’s my hope, at least.
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20 Aug 2021 11:39 #325867 by fightcitymayor

Erik Twice wrote: In fact, I've seen a very large number of people argue against FCM for "whitewashing" the game industry.

What did I do?!?
Ohhh.... Food Chain Magnate.
I thought someone was mad at me.
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