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Coming the Week of July 22nd

The first installment of Beyond the Veil an in-depth look at Arkham Horror The Card Game, It Came From the Tabletop Podcast, a look at FOMO, reviews of Undaunted Normandy and Starlight Stage, and more TBA.

Notes on Board Games

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14 May 2019 00:00 #296986 by JonathanVolk
Every medium of culture invites these anxious conversations about the...

Most board games are mediocre. This shouldn’t be controversial: most books are mediocre. Most movies too. Culture is a lot like the universe it tries to give meaning to, which is to say a mess, when it is anything at all (and it’s mostly nothing, or communities of nothing that amount to, in their patterning… something). A recent thread here on the “Golden Age” of board gaming has us wondering if the medium is in decline, and whether or not what we thought was gold was only ever wood-product with gold paint smeared on it.

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14 May 2019 08:03 #296987 by Legomancer
Replied by Legomancer on topic Notes on Board Games
well done
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14 May 2019 08:14 #296988 by Vysetron
Replied by Vysetron on topic Notes on Board Games
I don't like board game reddit or really reddit in general, but you know the main reason they got mad about the last piece was because you hadn't played Gloomhaven, right? I don't even disagree with the previous article's purpose or message but it seems like you're deliberately ignoring that.

I'm very confused as to the purpose of this piece. About half is actually what the title says, the rest is observations and the world's longest segues back into super brief notes that are ostensibly about board games. If this was a blog post I wouldn't mind, but it's an article on a board game site. Was there an editing pass on this?

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14 May 2019 08:54 #296989 by fightcitymayor
Replied by fightcitymayor on topic Notes on Board Games
I'm totally down with the "taste" angle, and I think there's something there that people forget when referencing "mediocre board games" and that is: Your individual taste is what vaults a mediocre game into a great game for you.

Case in point: Stratomatic Baseball. I've played Strat for 35 years and can safely say it holds zero charm if you aren't into baseball or the history thereof. The goal is attempting to recreate a statistical persuasion via rolling dice and cross-checking those dice rolls to individual charts. It can certainly be classified as actuarial anti-fun. AND YET... when I see a little number-chart card labeled "Stan Musial" squaring off against a little number-chart card labeled "Sandy Koufax" then HOLY SHIT I am kind of hard at figuring out who will "win" that number-chart card battle.

Being invested in the topic is the difference between a mediocre game you leave on the shelf, and one you buy, play, and take to heart. And that's kinda cool.
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14 May 2019 09:25 #296991 by BaronDonut
Replied by BaronDonut on topic Notes on Board Games

Vysetron wrote: I'm very confused as to the purpose of this piece. About half is actually what the title says, the rest is observations and the world's longest segues back into super brief notes that are ostensibly about board games. If this was a blog post I wouldn't mind, but it's an article on a board game site. Was there an editing pass on this?


Well, it's a riff on "Notes on Camp," a seminal essay that's getting talked about right now because of the Met Gala. As far as purpose, I think we could use a lot more writing that seeks to contextualize games through far-reaching inquiry and connection to other cultural objects / theories. I personally think we could use a lot less of just talk about games plz, and just because this piece is written in a rangier mode doesn't mean it's poorly edited or doesn't deserve a place here. I think we need to expand our thinking about what games writing can be / do.
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14 May 2019 09:50 #296993 by Vysetron
Replied by Vysetron on topic Notes on Board Games
I'm aware of Notes on Camp. Notes on Camp advances its points in almost every bullet. Each subsequent note builds off of the last. It has structure. This is all over the place.

I'm not asking for it to be a review or whatever. If anything I want more non-review content. This just didn't work for me.

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14 May 2019 10:59 #296997 by GorillaGrody
Replied by GorillaGrody on topic Notes on Board Games
The reason why Susan Sontag could be so dumbly incorporated into a value-agnostic thing like the Met Ball is because

1) her best, early work began the process of an ideological reading of mass culture, which was uncommon among the not-French in her day, and then

2) She spent the rest of her career walking her early work back in favor of the sort of value-agnostic crap that regularly got her published in the NYRB back in the seventies, stuff like “Does Kissinger look dapper in a hat?”

Sontag’s writing as a guiding principle (not just her, but her whole cohort in the seventies) is partially the reason we’re living in the Met Gala IMHO world we live in now.

“Should we expect a medium’s criticism to thrive when the only ones assuming risk are that medium’s fans?” is such a great question.
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14 May 2019 11:09 #296998 by JonathanVolk
Replied by JonathanVolk on topic Notes on Board Games
I love the Sontag, but I’m not sure razor focus is its chief virtue. Camp isn’t about clean, simple lines—as the endless debates about it in the decades since Sontag wrote the piece make clear.

But I do want to make a point about how a camp sensibility could stand to be cultivated by gamers like the ones on that Reddit thread. The irony of my not playing Gloomhaven was stated immediately, and served a larger point about fandom as an echo chamber.

I really do believe people should be required to read Wilde before talking about their tastes. Seriously. Games aren’t the same as novels or plays or poems, sure, but I think reading novels and plays and poems (and Wilde) could make our games better. Literacy is an endless pilgrimage, in that regard.
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14 May 2019 11:13 #296999 by Not Sure
Replied by Not Sure on topic Notes on Board Games
83 We might do well to remember that: the critic wants to love, is so capable of loving enormously.

83 numbered points. Aside from Conan the Barbarian and maybe chess, I'm no closer to getting an idea of anything you actually approve of.

That's a lot of words to say the world sucks and can do better, but won't.

I'd be a lot more interested in hearing something about what you love enormously than in a rehash of why the critics have it so hard. No surprise, it's always because everyone else is so stupid. That's a tired, tired thought.
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14 May 2019 11:23 #297001 by GorillaGrody
Replied by GorillaGrody on topic Notes on Board Games
Reading Oscar Wilde is the precondition for being fully alive!

There should be an “Oscar Wilde’s Socratic Dialogue” board game.
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14 May 2019 11:25 - 14 May 2019 11:26 #297002 by GorillaGrody
Replied by GorillaGrody on topic Notes on Board Games

Not Sure wrote: 83

I'd be a lot more interested in hearing something about what you love enormously than in a rehash of why the critics have it so hard. No surprise, it's always because everyone else is so stupid. That's a tired, tired thought.


The negative contrast version of this is that he’s asking why it’s necessary that anyone do criticism at all. It might not be within your wheelhouse of important questions, but it is a question that comes up on the site quite often.
Last edit: 14 May 2019 11:26 by GorillaGrody.
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14 May 2019 11:33 #297004 by JonathanVolk
Replied by JonathanVolk on topic Notes on Board Games
Not Sure wrote,

83 numbered points. Aside from Conan the Barbarian and maybe chess, I'm no closer to getting an idea of anything you actually approve of.


Chess is great but computers are better at it than we are, and I like people more than computers. Conan is great but it’s nothing to live by.

I'd be a lot more interested in hearing something about what you love enormously than in a rehash of why the critics have it so hard. No surprise, it's always because everyone else is so stupid. That's a tired, tired thought.


The problem of our culture is that stupid people rarely cause problems—Gorilla Grody brought this up in another thread here, how it takes a certain amount of intelligence, paired with an authority over epistemology, to destroy the world. Trump isn’t a complete idiot—we ignore his intelligences at our peril.

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14 May 2019 12:46 #297010 by Shellhead
Replied by Shellhead on topic Notes on Board Games
My eyes started to glaze over while reading the list, but I think that there are some good topics in there for future articles.

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14 May 2019 14:45 #297014 by Space Ghost
Replied by Space Ghost on topic Notes on Board Games

Not Sure wrote: 83 numbered points. Aside from Conan the Barbarian and maybe chess, I'm no closer to getting an idea of anything you actually approve of.


That, and prime numbers.

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14 May 2019 14:49 #297015 by Space Ghost
Replied by Space Ghost on topic Notes on Board Games

JonathanVolk wrote: The problem of our culture is that stupid people rarely cause problems—Gorilla Grody brought this up in another thread here, how it takes a certain amount of intelligence, paired with an authority over epistemology, to destroy the world.


Not to get too far afield, but that is the way that modern governance has been trending for some time -- look back to MacNamara and the Whiz Kids -- he basically invented the use of so-called big data at the corporate level. To see the nefarious potential in all the "AI" that we are surrounding ourselves with, I can't recommend Weapons of Math Destruction enough.
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