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Legends Untold Board Game Review

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28 Jun 2019 11:27 #298983 by RobertB

Sagrilarus wrote:

Sevej wrote: 1. Demanding anyone creating anything to represent everything

Anyone care to speak to other facets of the article, which, frankly, gushes on the game and seems to indicate that perhaps we should consider playing it instead of talking about it!


I'll take a swing - duller than dishwater. A DM-less RPG for folks that are all about traps and initiative, rather than "Oh shit!" mobs. Maybe that's the goal of the designer - build the game around a notion like, "Local blacksmith goes into sewers with his buddies for reasons, finds out walking around is dangerous without the usual dungeon denizens."
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28 Jun 2019 11:27 #298984 by Shellhead
When people are unable to enjoy a form of entertainment because there isn't a character that resembles them, it strikes me as falling somewhere near either narcissism or bigotry. And I feel the same way when a creator completely avoids diverse representation in their work. I don't think that it's necessary to try check off every box on a long list of minority groups, so as long as there is at least some diversity. For example, it wouldn't make sense to have a Muslim or Christian character in Lord of the Rings, a setting that seems to be completely lacking in any of our world's desert monotheisms. But it would have been nice if Tolkien had included more than a handful of named female characters, or even one character who wasn't white.

Likewise, I feel sorry for a player who can't find a character that represents their race/gender/sexual orientation/etc in a given boardgame. But it's also sad that they need such a thing. As a kid, I was a huge fan of Marvel Comics, and some of my favorite characters looked nothing like me. Luke Cage and Black Panther were black, and yet they were on my top five list of favorite Marvel heroes. Later, I became a big fan of Shang-Chi, even though I'm not Asian either. Someone will be quick to tell me that was my white privilege to not care, but it totally misses the point that I don't need my heroes to look like me or be me. Arya Stark was one of my favorites in Game of Thrones, and I've never been a little girl. Ellen Ripley was awesome as the main character in the Alien movies. I think that I just have more empathy than some people, and am capable of admiring or identifying with a wider range of human beings.

With respect to this game Legends Untold, it's disappointing to hear that the designer got feedback about representation during a playtest and dismissed the issue out of hand. That's his privilege as a designer, and it is my privilege as a consumer to skip his product even if it's otherwise a good game.
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28 Jun 2019 11:46 #298988 by charlest

RobertB wrote:

Sagrilarus wrote:

Sevej wrote: 1. Demanding anyone creating anything to represent everything

Anyone care to speak to other facets of the article, which, frankly, gushes on the game and seems to indicate that perhaps we should consider playing it instead of talking about it!


I'll take a swing - duller than dishwater. A DM-less RPG for folks that are all about traps and initiative, rather than "Oh shit!" mobs. Maybe that's the goal of the designer - build the game around a notion like, "Local blacksmith goes into sewers with his buddies for reasons, finds out walking around is dangerous without the usual dungeon denizens."


I really like this game. It's focused almost entirely on exploration as you fill out the cave and run into obstacles and traps. There's a pretty wide range of encounters including stuff like hazardous rope bridges, rushing water, scaling cliffs, foreign idols, etc.

I find this a much better design than the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and it's also a wonderful solo experience.
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28 Jun 2019 11:50 - 28 Jun 2019 11:53 #298990 by Sagrilarus
That's always been at the heart of it for me for these kinds of games. How can a mechanical device with no understanding of game state provide an interesting adventure? There's a part of me that would prefer to go with an RPG and a DM that is just ad-libbing the adventure than go after a similar feel with a highly structured board game. I know DMs talented enough to do that, to provide a better experience than a boxed game.

So if this game is about nostalgia or having a DM-less game it's not going to do the trick for me. That said, some must be better than others, so maybe this is a good one. At the moment it appears to have 2 votes in favor, two against.
Last edit: 28 Jun 2019 11:53 by Sagrilarus.
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28 Jun 2019 12:33 - 28 Jun 2019 12:34 #298999 by RobertB

charlest wrote:

RobertB wrote:

Sagrilarus wrote:

Sevej wrote: 1. Demanding anyone creating anything to represent everything

Anyone care to speak to other facets of the article, which, frankly, gushes on the game and seems to indicate that perhaps we should consider playing it instead of talking about it!


I'll take a swing - duller than dishwater. A DM-less RPG for folks that are all about traps and initiative, rather than "Oh shit!" mobs. Maybe that's the goal of the designer - build the game around a notion like, "Local blacksmith goes into sewers with his buddies for reasons, finds out walking around is dangerous without the usual dungeon denizens."


I really like this game. It's focused almost entirely on exploration as you fill out the cave and run into obstacles and traps. There's a pretty wide range of encounters including stuff like hazardous rope bridges, rushing water, scaling cliffs, foreign idols, etc.

I find this a much better design than the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and it's also a wonderful solo experience.


The systems themselves were good. I do like actual maps more than inferred maps a'la PACG or Too Many Bones (two I've played lately). But I didn't think the Legends systems were significantly better than D&DAS, just different. What Legends has done is make me think, "A small-box D&DAS might be good."
Last edit: 28 Jun 2019 12:34 by RobertB.
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28 Jun 2019 13:14 - 28 Jun 2019 13:22 #299001 by Sevej

ubarose wrote: Also, Sevej, I respect that this isn't an important issue to you. You are an adult, and it is less of a big deal to you. But even as an adult you "LOVE being represented in games." Young people love it even more. And it makes them love games more. So it is good for players, and it is good for business.


Oh, that's where you get me wrong. I do consider that as an important issue. The difference is, I will highly praise a game that do, and say nothing when a game doesn't. It could be as simple as lack of artist (of that specific skill), knowledge of other races (oh, no, cultural appropriation!), etc.

That's the fundamental difference for me, and TWBG team. It's a feature for me, not a requirement. Excellent to have, won't complain if not! Except, obviously, if a game is blatantly being racist/sexist.

As for anyone asking to talk about the game or how good the game is? The review started with this sentence "A great dungeoncrawler with a diversity problem." So don't blame us taking this issue into the forefront!

I can point the most bullshit sentence: "The problem is that white people often don't understand why this is a problem, or worse, they don't notice it because it doesn't affect them- this is white privelege." Hahaha... I suppose I have asian male privelege. In short, it was never an issue for me. Now, if you have a white hero in a wuxia story... Wait, that's not an issue either (for me).
Last edit: 28 Jun 2019 13:22 by Sevej.
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28 Jun 2019 13:59 #299002 by quozl
I wonder how it would be received if game publishers did what LEGO does: make all the characters have the same fictional skin color. (With LEGO, it's bright yellow.)
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28 Jun 2019 14:22 - 28 Jun 2019 14:25 #299004 by ubarose
I'm not blaming anyone for taking this issue into the forefront. I think Michael intended it to be in the forefront, and I also think the discussion has been thoughtful and kind and given us all something to think about. I find your (Sevej) perspective as an Asian male who is in another part of the world particularly enlightening. Most of the Asian guys I know are second or third generation in the US. So their perspective is very different.

I personally feel an obligation to point out the lack of diversity in a game, because I kind of have some authority and power in the board game community. Not a lot, but a bit more than many. I am among a very small number of women who have been board game commentators for more than 12 years, and I have the ear of several designers and publishers. So I feel it is kind of a responsibility to call things out. Sometimes here, which through these discussions provides me with a perspective beyond my own. More often face to face with designers and publishers. So, as a result of this discussion, the next time I play test a game that has an Asian man or appears to be appropriating Asian culture, I'm going to say, "Have you run this by someone who is an Asian dude, or who is part of this culture, or are you just making shit up and presenting it through your white dude lens."

Also, the "bullshit" sentence that Sevej quotes could have been worded better so it was less bullshity. But I don't think one poorly expressed thought negates the overall argument that it is kind of sucky when a game has 10 characters and all of them are white.
Last edit: 28 Jun 2019 14:25 by ubarose.
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28 Jun 2019 14:49 #299007 by lj1983
I was annoyed with FFG when they introduced a Korean character with a very non-Korean name. I think they ret-conned it to make things ok, but it stunk of pandering.

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28 Jun 2019 17:49 - 28 Jun 2019 17:51 #299011 by UniversalHead
I've been working on the graphic design of Atlantis Rising for a year, and the character sheets in that game are not only double-sided so you can choose gender, but there's an amazing variety of age and cultural background - there's even a character in a wheelchair. I may also be (way) over 30 and white, but I do have the modicum of imagination and empathy required to understand how fantastic it must be to see myself represented in a game were I otherwise. I'm sure someone could come up with some silly justification for why characters in Atlantis should be of a particular cultural background, but I think having a wide variety of character types makes the game experience better and, I venture to say, the world just a tiny bit better too.
Last edit: 28 Jun 2019 17:51 by UniversalHead.
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28 Jun 2019 18:37 #299012 by ubarose
Atlantis Rising? Is it a new edition?

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28 Jun 2019 18:58 #299013 by Erik Twice

ubarose wrote: And as Michael said "if elves, goblins and giant spiders are being hand-waved into this "fact-based" setting, why can’t a player choose to be a non-white human? "

This is a fairly common argument, but I've always found it questionable. After all, a piece of fiction breaking with reality in one way does not make other breaks with reality any more acceptable from an artistic standpoint. In other words, adding magic to a northern European setting doesn't mean factors such as ethnicity stop being relevant.

Think about One Hundred Yars of Solitude. It has ghosts and cusers and a deep-seated sense of irreality, but that doesn't mean the culture and ethnicity of its characters is any less important. In fact, it does the opposite.

--

To be honest, for me this whole issue is just common sense. If you set your game in a place, just look at who lives there and make characters that look like them. Roll some dice, make it random and adjust based on what you want to represent. I often see designers taking about these contrived approaches when turning 50% of characters in the game female would have been both more natural and better with much less work.

I keep thinking about Blood Rage and how it has one female faction and three male ones. It looks so jarring and out of place, why not just make them mixed?

I also remember seeing Barnes talk about diversity in Magic: The Gathering and that's also an approach that seemed unnatural to me. There's something jarring about the "Eastern European" block reflecting the demographics of the United States or how they still struggle with the idea of female monsters that just puts me off. Quite frankly, most "diverse" games follow the same ideals of diversity of a Nivea commercial.

lj1983 wrote: I was annoyed with FFG when they introduced a Korean character with a very non-Korean name. I think they ret-conned it to make things ok, but it stunk of pandering.

FFG's greatest sin regarding this topic will always be the second edition of Arkham Horror. They went out of their way to put women and black people into their game and then decided to add gypsies that cast evil eye on you and steal your belongings. I remember laughing at how awful it was when I first played it.
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28 Jun 2019 20:02 #299015 by Sagrilarus
I saw someone on another site hoping the next scenario would be a desert setting. A follow-on unit could broaden the game's horizons and expand its potential market in short order, and it wouldn't be out of place.

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29 Jun 2019 01:49 #299019 by Jackwraith

Shellhead wrote: For example, it wouldn't make sense to have a Muslim or Christian character in Lord of the Rings, a setting that seems to be completely lacking in any of our world's desert monotheisms. But it would have been nice if Tolkien had included more than a handful of named female characters, or even one character who wasn't white.


Just FYI: The Lord of the Rings is an almost explicitly Christian story that includes extensive imagery from the Bible, a high god and a fallen angel (Valar), the concept of sin, resurrection of a character sent to save the common people, etc. Tolkien was a devout Catholic and incorporated much of his belief system into the story and discussed that extensively with fellow devout Christian (Anglican), C. S. Lewis. It's really kind of hard to miss, similarly to Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

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29 Jun 2019 03:32 #299020 by Frohike

Sevej wrote: No, if I created the typical fantasy world, be it teutonic, tolkienese, etc, it would have been, like, 99% white people. Pointing it's due to laziness and white author, without any due diligence, IS being lazy.


Point taken. I'm certainly open to having laziness pointed out since I'm prone to it, but in this particular case I still actually think that authorial intent, however calculated & precise, which just goes down the path of least generic resistance is still a form of laziness; a presumptuousness about audience.

My personal reaction to fantasy designers/writers appealing to genre sources (quasi-historic, generic trope systems) as authority is to think that they're missing a fundamental aspect of fantasy. The sourcing is just a prop; it's not some authoritative origin that makes the world-building stronger or the fantasy "better". Fantasy has always been about its audience, its framing of the "escapist" reader. In the case of Tolkien, it was a hypothetical audience outside of his immediate Oxford club circles who would enjoy the great Anglo Saxon epic mythology that had never quite formed historically. For Robert E Howard, it was a hypothetical pulp readership in the 30's which was primarily male & white, picking up every new issue of Weird Tales. In either case, I'm not sure the world-building was so much about representation and authoritative sourcing it was about identification with the strange, with otherness, which Shellhead got into in his own post.

Although I know these types of discussions can make people bristle, I think they're important & fascinating to pursue because they strike at the heart of how genre functions, and how we navigate identification with the Other through genre. Games & fantasy offer us such points of identification, and much as they do elsewhere, these points always impose assumptions: about how identification should work in that medium or genre, and how society at large contextualizes and validates certain forms of identification over others. This does intersect with racial politics, and as such I think it's important to restrain oneself from trying to immediately shut down any criticism that broaches issues of "representation" because we risk shutting down the deeper conversations behind that rubric.
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