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"Ancient" Games

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21 Feb 2019 00:09 #292819 by Sagrilarus
"Ancient" Games was created by Sagrilarus
I had a teacher that asked the class that question...

Were you born 200 years too early, or 200 years too late?

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21 Feb 2019 10:09 #292820 by ubarose
Replied by ubarose on topic "Ancient" Games
I find delight in opening up an older game. I especially like the ones that were printed in Germany , back before every thing was being done in China. The component quality is just so amazing.

It's also fun to open up old games that were printed as cheaply as possible. I like to show younger gamers the serrated edges of the cards and explain how back in the old days when we were kids, we had to carefully punch out all the cards - an activity that clumsy siblings were barred from participating in.
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21 Feb 2019 10:40 #292825 by Space Ghost
Replied by Space Ghost on topic "Ancient" Games
I'm also a fan of older games. Lately, we have been playing a lot of Old Western games (50s - 60s), and while the totality of the game play can't compete with what modern games offer, there are often mechanisms or some subtle ideas that would benefit newer titles.

To understand the present, I think it is vitally important to understand the history of your field of specialization. For these games, I was playing The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and immediately thought how a couple of its mechanics could benefit Western Legends. Then, I begin to wonder, how many designers (especially younger designers*) even bother to go back and play older games...my guess is not many.

*I don't mean that as derogatory. I see the same thing in scientific fields of study. Mine is statistics, and there is a shift to graduate students relying almost solely on what they can get on the internet (no more trips to the library). Likewise, since everything is electronic, nobody gets paper copies of journals any longer -- which means that they only read the articles they are looking for and never discover anything by accident. This is compounded by not looking to other disciplines -- often time the most useful insights can be gained by seeing something you think you know a lot about in a different context -- it can be quite humbling and spark creativity.

Sorry for the discursion; this, along with how I think email is making us stupider, have been at the forefront of my thinking lately. Great article.
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21 Feb 2019 10:49 - 21 Feb 2019 10:59 #292827 by Sagrilarus
Replied by Sagrilarus on topic "Ancient" Games

Space Ghost wrote: Great article.


Dude, great response!

Care to provide a short list of Western Games from the 50s and 60s to take a look at?

Years back I stumbled across Bratz Babies Stylin' Scavenger Hunt, a game designed for young girls. It was . . . remarkably good, like, way better than it should have been. Games with three year olds in fishnets should suck, but it had some cool concepts in its gameplay. I contacted MGA to find out who the designer for it was and got a polite response that they don't give out employee names as a matter of policy. Book slammed shut in short order.

A couple of years later I found out who designed it almost by mistake -- Dan Verssen of DVG. He was a contract designer for MGA for several years. When he mentioned that he was I asked him who designed Stylin Scavenger Hunt and he said, "yep, that was me."

My point is this -- those games from the 50s and 60s may have had big names doing the conceptual work on them, or if they aren't big names they should be. A game with Hamblen or Butterfield on the credits list gets a look regardless of how old it is. How many games out there have a name of equal measure not listed?
Last edit: 21 Feb 2019 10:59 by Sagrilarus.
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21 Feb 2019 11:52 #292832 by Saul Goodman
Replied by Saul Goodman on topic "Ancient" Games
Uba and Al introduced me to Yacht Race. That game is phenomenal. Good as any game that's come out in the past 20 years.
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21 Feb 2019 13:16 #292835 by Colorcrayons
Replied by Colorcrayons on topic "Ancient" Games

Space Ghost wrote: I'm also a fan of older games. Lately, we have been playing a lot of Old Western games (50s - 60s), and while the totality of the game play can't compete with what modern games offer, there are often mechanisms or some subtle ideas that would benefit newer titles.

To understand the present, I think it is vitally important to understand the history of your field of specialization. For these games, I was playing The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and immediately thought how a couple of its mechanics could benefit Western Legends. Then, I begin to wonder, how many designers (especially younger designers*) even bother to go back and play older games...my guess is not many.

*I don't mean that as derogatory. I see the same thing in scientific fields of study. Mine is statistics, and there is a shift to graduate students relying almost solely on what they can get on the internet (no more trips to the library). Likewise, since everything is electronic, nobody gets paper copies of journals any longer -- which means that they only read the articles they are looking for and never discover anything by accident. This is compounded by not looking to other disciplines -- often time the most useful insights can be gained by seeing something you think you know a lot about in a different context -- it can be quite humbling and spark creativity.

Sorry for the discursion; this, along with how I think email is making us stupider, have been at the forefront of my thinking lately. Great article.


I take great joy in finding a new-to-me game through thrift shops that have been yellowed by time and many game loving hands.

Since "the board game renaissance", this is no longer a real option now since finding old games is a business model for some folks.

Regardless, I agree about exploring old titles. I've seen older games that have newer analogues that play better than the newer analogues. I'm not a designer, but it is refreshing to see what 'new' mechanisms existed and now gone by the wayside. It's almost as if you took these old titles, and built of off them you could come up with an entirely new way of expressing a game. It happens all the time nowadays, but only with contemporary titles. New version of Dominion. New version of Descent. But nary a sighting of a new version of Curse of the Mummy.

I think your postulation about newer designer not delving into old games as merely part of gaining a vault of knowledge will only increase. Most likely because there are so many games churned out nowadays that it would be next to impossible to explore them.
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21 Feb 2019 15:15 #292846 by mezike
Replied by mezike on topic "Ancient" Games
One of our favourite family games is Plus and Minus which was printed in the 1930s but feels like something far more modern. Most people I show it to think that it must be a little known Knizia title which I find amusing. Definitely some old stuff is good stuff.
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21 Feb 2019 15:52 #292851 by Jackwraith
Replied by Jackwraith on topic "Ancient" Games
Do classic abstracts count? I always felt on the "born too late" scale it was something closer to 500 or 1000 or longer. I'm a huge history fan, but largely prior to the modern era. And two of my favorite games that I rarely get the chance to play are Mahjong (17th century) and Go (um, some time BCE.) I think there's still a fair amount of elementary design that can be derived from both.

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23 Feb 2019 12:22 #292942 by engineer Al
Replied by engineer Al on topic "Ancient" Games
Great article Sag, and some thought provoking questions.

So first, I am definitely in the “born too late” camp. Yes, I probably would have died early in a war or from untreated asthma 200 years ago, but nonetheless I think I would have felt more comfortable. Books instead of video, face to face instead of texts, time relaxing on the porch instead of a constant rush, playing music together with friends and family instead of blasting a stranger’s music from tiny speakers on a telephone. All of it. Perhaps I’m romanticizing a bit, but still. . .

When it comes to games, yes my eye does linger on the older game on the shelf. Sometimes it’s from nostalgia and memories, yet sometimes just from the “magic” that comes from engaging with a time that’s long gone. Saul mentioned Yacht Race, a game from the early 1960’s. Sag, I believe you’ve mentioned this game in the past as well. A BEAUTIFUL game that embraces the concept of “elegance” in games in as graceful a manner as I’ve ever seen. Yes, some of the cards are a bit “dated” from a modern gamer’s point of view. I never teach the game without warning new players they could “lose a turn”, for example. But even where a modern eye can point out flaws, Yacht Race has everything I want in a game and still gives me the feeling of leather bound books and homemade lemonade. Love it. Chess is an even more ancient game that connects me to my father and to his father and is rooted in time and history as well as being perhaps the greatest game ever conceived of. Really, what game of the “designer” era even compares?

To take this all a step further, I think that as board gamers perhaps we are all pushing against “modern” sensibilities. There is something about the analog experience of cardboard and friends that we relish despite the allure of bright colors, flashing lights and instant satisfaction that are available through video gaming. Sure, to some extent or another we are all sometimes drawn to video games. But we are also still drawn to this incredibly ancient form of entertainment that is older than recorded history. We are all time travelers to the past!
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