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Legends Untold Board Game Review

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29 Jun 2019 10:16 #299027 by Sevej
I agree on the core idea, I apologize if I seem to come strongly on this. It's just that the review already throws judgmental jargons such as white privilege and white supremacy, in a review for a game from a small, first time publisher. Totally unwarranted.

Look at Ticket to Ride. Their first titles have all white cast on the cover. But the latest one is wonderful. Give these guys time to grow.
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29 Jun 2019 11:44 - 29 Jun 2019 12:46 #299033 by ubarose
@Sevej

No apology necessary. I hope that you don't feel that I came on too strong, or that I gave you the impression that I was upset. I have been enjoying our conversation. I think that you have expressed strong feelings in an exemplary manner. You have broadened my perspective and I appreciate that.

I agree that perhaps Michael's language may be a bit strong. However, as another member commented, when given feedback about the lack of diversity in their game they brushed it off. So maybe stronger language is needed to motivate them to grow. (P.S. note that I said "maybe," which means that you can potentially convince me otherwise as I am not sure)
Last edit: 29 Jun 2019 12:46 by ubarose.
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29 Jun 2019 22:47 - 29 Jun 2019 22:51 #299042 by Michael Barnes
I’ve been hanging back and “listening” more than reacting here because obviously I think this is a very serious subject and one we would do well to think a lot about. I really appreciate the reasonable tone and viewpoints expressed here.

Now, here’s the deal. To be honest, I debated how hard I wanted too bring it here. I wanted to be very careful not to presume too much about Inspiring Games and I didn’t want to tar their reputation unfairly. Terms like “white supremacy” and “white privilege” are heavy, but when you look at a game like this and have -no problem- with the all white cast...that is the product of white supremacy and whites privilege. But the the truth is, I could have swung a lot harder than this.

For example, in the fluff on their website, there is something that could easily be interpreted as a message of xenophobia. The white Saxon-ish folks are being invaded by “foreign” Elves, who treat them with cruelty and merciless. Now, I find the story notion of all-white Northern European people concerned with “newcomers” disrupting and destroying their old ways of life to be...somewhat questionable from a political perspective. Or is it just fantasy tropes?

But I also do not think it would be fair to assume that the intent is racist or supremacist...despite what feels definitely like subtext. I don’t have enough info to go on other than what is available publically.

To flip it back over, I am really inclined to pull a Kamala Harris and say “I don’t think you are racist but...” I am taking it on good faith that the lack of diversity- which to my mind is glaring- is more the product of a company either leaning on the “well, the target audience...” or just blithely unaware of the message that exclusion or a latent xenophobic theme sends.

Neither is an acceptable excuse, nor is the appeal to history. I certainly would not expect a game about the Battle of Tours to represent ahistorical African combatants. But this game is not a simulation of history, despite its clear quasi-historical basis.

There was a great tweet this week from the designer of Swordsfall, a great looking Afrofuturist RPG. Someone (white) expressed that they felt that they “couldn’t do it justice” since white people aren’t represented and it’s not “for” white people. The designer replied, basically asking “do you know how many fantasy games, movies, books, etc. I’ve played/seen/read where -I- wasn’t represented?”

It absolutely falls on us- the legacy white boys that this hobby was built by, on, and for- to demand change and to call out companies that are not sufficiently answering the call to include and represent. Don’t say “it doesn’t affect me” and give it a pass.

-All- non-historical, fictional games where players choose an in-game character should make an attempt to represent and include. Period. No matter how much the white boys cry, no matter how much the white wail.

And we have to demand it.

It sucks that we have to use this game- which is a really good design- to have this conversation but I think because the game is good it makes it a more poignant and effective debate. What do we do when game publishers and designers -don’t- support diversity?
Last edit: 29 Jun 2019 22:51 by Michael Barnes.

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30 Jun 2019 07:23 - 30 Jun 2019 07:32 #299046 by Sevej
There you go, the dude demands it. Who was it back then said the reviewer didn't demand it? Really the way you pull this seems to me, this site feels like a white site for white matter. Who cares about the opinion of other races?

People from a race killing other races? Could go either way, but I will always give the benefit of the doubt first. Tolkien used "Easterlings" and "Southrons". The racial hate in Witcher 3 is palpable (and it's a super white game!!!). This go way back with Morrowind, where the Dunmers feel oppressed by the Imperium. Heck, Old Mans War

But sure, go ahead white boys.

I'd really appreciate it if you somehow get in touch with the publishers to get some real information. But no. Throw the words first.

EDIT: PS. I'm still bugged as hell with non-white characters in typical fantasy. You'd better do a super fantastic job with it, or it's just forced diversity, and we "minorities" are just trophies for your diversity badge.
Last edit: 30 Jun 2019 07:32 by Sevej.
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30 Jun 2019 12:23 - 30 Jun 2019 12:37 #299050 by ubarose

Sevej wrote: There you go, the dude demands it. Who was it back then said the reviewer didn't demand it?
...
Who cares about the opinion of other races?
...
I'm still bugged as hell with non-white characters in typical fantasy. You'd better do a super fantastic job with it, or it's just forced diversity, and we "minorities" are just trophies for your diversity badge.


This is absolutely true. It is really cringey when it is done poorly.

I care about the opinions of people of other races, particularly people I know F2F who have opinions about my "White People games." and pass them up to play the my less white games.

Also, I said that I didn't demand it. I didn't say Michael didn't demand it because I can't speak for anyone but myself.

**************************************************
I don't mean to lecture. I have assumed that readers have the same basic knowledge that I have, especially since we have so many history buffs on this site. However, just in case people don't...

The designers of this game have clearly stated that this game is meant to be a board game for historical LARPers. Which means they are trying to be historically accurate to a specific time and place. That place is a city with sewers in Northern Europe. The characters are average inhabitants of that city. One of the characters is this person who is described as being Achean, which means he is from Greece.



Putting all these pieces together, as well as the illustrations of the various characters clothing, it is pretty clear that the historic time and place of this game is a city built by the Roman Empire and the time is Late Antiquity (sometime during the first 5 centuries CE).

The populations of these cities were ethnically diverse, with inhabitants from across the Roman Empire, including those from Britannia, continental Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (both Northern Africa and Aethiopia as it was called at the time). It is estimated that at least 20% of the population of urban areas in Northern Europe, if not more, were not of Northern European origin. We know all this from the study of human remains in these areas, as well as written documentation. Which means that there would be Black and Brown people living in this city.

The designers are clearly aware of this as they have included a person from Greece in the game, which is entirely historically accurate for this time and place, as would be a person from North Africa or Aethiopia living in this city. Therefore having a character in the game that looked like, for example, the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus who ruled the Roman world from Britannia for a period of time or the soldiers he brought with him, many of which were from Africa, would not be shoehorning ethnic diversity into the game in an artificial way, anymore than including a person from Greece is. In fact, they could have made this character a Greek of African origin, because as I stated in another post Greeks of African origin were not uncommon.

Personally, I believe that the designers and publishers of this game, just like the many publishers I have interacted with over the years, believe that their market is white and only wants white characters, and illustrations. Therefore, as part of that market, I am speaking up here to say that is not true. And by purchasing games that have a greater diversity of characters that is not forced or stereotyped, like Western Legends, I am speaking with my wallet to let publishers know that this is what I want and need. I want to be able to pull a game off my self and not have it greeted with "Oh, another one of your White People games." And, although some of the readers here may not feel as strongly, they certainly aren't put off by playing a non-white character in a game, or looking at non-white illustrations. So there is nothing for publishers to lose, and there is something to gain by recognizing that their market is not as homogeneously white and male as they think it is.

I'm also going to take a closer look at Atlantis Rising.
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Last edit: 30 Jun 2019 12:37 by ubarose.
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30 Jun 2019 13:52 #299053 by Vysetron
Now we're getting into my heritage, and it looks like they kinda botched it.

Greek folks are/were super varied in appearance, as Uba mentioned. I'm white passing (largely because I don't go outside) but a lot of my family and community isn't. If they're making the authenticity argument they've failed. If they aren't, then I'd chalk it up to bad execution but no actual ill intent.

This thread's been good btw. Solid discussion of a complex issue. Early on I was under the impression that MB went too hard on it, but with additional context I'm not entirely sure.
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30 Jun 2019 16:13 #299057 by mads b.
One thing I think that can really make people mad when there's diversity in pieces of art/fiction, is that it just hasn't been the norm. A lot of historical movies, books, games etc. has not shown that, for instance, people weren't all white in the good old medieval times in Europe or that women fighter pilots and soldiers did exist during WW2. So our idea of what is "historically accurate" is tainted by pieces of fiction that have been made by and to a white, male crowd.

For me - as a white dude - diversity is important because it more accurately shows the world as it is. For me the important part is not so much that women or POC can play a character resembling them (even if that is also important), but rather that women and minorities have been left out for far too long. And that skewers our perception of reality so that it seems that women don't actually have that interesting stories to tell, or that white folks make the world go round.
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30 Jun 2019 19:04 #299059 by UniversalHead

ubarose wrote: Atlantis Rising? Is it a new edition?


Yep, here's the Kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/brentdickma...e-worker-placement-g

Art by Vincent Dutrait. Graphic design by me. :)
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30 Jun 2019 22:09 #299063 by Sagrilarus
I just find games more interesting when everyone isn't vanilla. I mean jeeze, most old games didn't even give someone brown curly hair.

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01 Jul 2019 20:41 - 01 Jul 2019 20:52 #299119 by Sevej
Oh, sure Sag. But again, it's a feature for me, not a requirement. As a creator myself, I really don't want to force another creator to change his creation. Ask politely may be, but some creations are really personal thing.

@Uba
No, not you. Someone else. Was it Sag (sorry if it wasn't')? Don't remember and can't be bothered to look back.

On Representation
Just how far you want to go with this? Western Legends makes for an excellent case. It's racially diverse, but only because it's suitable for the setting, and I'm all for it. But if we're talking, actual representation, which according to one of the members here, to feel it like more "real", then you'd have 1 brown, 2 white, 2 black, 1 middle eastern, 1 south east Asian, 3 east Asians, and 2 Indians. Why no Chinese? We had Shanghai Noon (which, admittedly kind of racist for some people, but harmless fun for me)!

On "white" Greek
I think this is either a mistake or technical limitation. Drawing racial features ain't easy, especially if you never meet them in real life. Then you only have references (which is probably white supremacist stuff). I once wrote for a comic that have Arabs in it, and we totally didn't bother except to put gigantic turban on his head and healthy amount of facial hair (the actual Arabs I know were amused). We decided not to put in praying scene because we're not sure how to find Mecca from Mars, and whether the Kaaba is still there.

Now, I may have been convinced that the "usual" fantasy has been a product of WSP (White Supremacy & Privilege). But is it fair throwing the same accusation to people who grew with this? Also, how come the same thing never leveled at Lord of the Rings (e.g. I actually checked Middle Earth Quest and it has all white characters)? Or Witcher 3? Or Game of Thrones? Or Harry Potter, of which main characters are all white (admittedly, plenty of supporting casts are of other ethnicities)? Scyhte has all white heroes. Middara? I don't even know how representation even works here...
Last edit: 01 Jul 2019 20:52 by Sevej.

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01 Jul 2019 21:28 #299124 by Sagrilarus
In general the point of inclusivity is to enlighten people, to expand their horizons. A little late for Tolkien, but newer artists are encouraged to present a broader spectrum. A simple acknowledgement that non-white people exist can go quite a ways.

In the U.S. there are ethnic groups that as a rule don't play board games because "they're for white people." I've heard those words in person. It's absurd, but when game after game shows all white people, and really white people at that, it's a tough point to argue. This may not be true in other countries, but it is in the U.S.

With the size and average income of the U.S. market, leaving behind 40% of the population (75% if you include women) is not good business.
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01 Jul 2019 23:48 #299133 by jason10mm
While I agree with diversity and representation in principle, can/should it apply in every single circumstance? Especially when thematically it makes less sense?

Flip this around, if this Anglo-Saxon/norse /whatever themed game ought to include some PoC, should a game set in deepest Africa in pre-colonial times have an obligatory white guy? Pre-Cortez America? And should these games be deliberately called out if they don't?

Small print run games probably have a print run in the hundreds, right? So just how broad does their appeal have to be to constitute success? This isn't Asmodee swinging for the fences with an expensive license, painted minis, and an ad campaign. This appears to be a tiny niche game from a tiny niche company. To make "lack of diversity" a major failing of the game, especially when it really is just a cosmetic issue (since you could probably substitute a picture of anyone and the game would play the same), seems pedantic in a review.

I get wanting to change the culture of gaming and plenty of the major hitters like WOTC are doing just that. I don't think we need to apply the exact same standards to every single product, especially if it is really just a one way application (as I don't think a single person would legit complain if a [Marvel] Black Panther game had no white heroes). It reduces representation to a marketing ploy instead of a true desire to be inclusive and, more importantly in my opinion, be inclusive from a ground up thematic base instead of just slapping a "Moorish Viking" into the game to check an arbitrary box.

Rather than complain that this little game lacks diversity, why not seek out and review a little game that epitomizes your ideal? Inject positivity into the debate.
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02 Jul 2019 01:35 #299135 by Sevej

Sagrilarus wrote: With the size and average income of the U.S. market, leaving behind 40% of the population (75% if you include women) is not good business.


I'd argue that the portion that can be affected by this (non-white, not already playing board games), is small. Now, I agree, that every little bit helps, but really, the way this is said is as if TWBG want to change this instantly, without proper process (wealth distribution at the very end of the process), it reeks of (oh my God I loathe myself so much for using this phrase) virtue signaling. I don't believe the majority of people saying "I don't want to play board games because it's white people game" will play it just because they are represented in the game. It's a much more complex issue.

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02 Jul 2019 07:07 - 02 Jul 2019 09:03 #299138 by Sagrilarus
Well, my personal evidence appears to contradict your beliefs. So we're going to disagree, at least regarding the American landscape. I'll tell you this -- other entertainment industries in the U.S. have been busting their humps to insert diversity into their products because . . . well, for some reason. Big companies do things like this for money as a general rule.
Last edit: 02 Jul 2019 09:03 by Sagrilarus.

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02 Jul 2019 07:29 - 02 Jul 2019 09:10 #299139 by mads b.
I don't believe all products or all stories should have diversity. We don't need a gay man, a POC, a woman and a disabled person in all stories. But that being said we do need them in some stories - especially in stories that aren't about being a minority. And we need different kinds of people in stories because it will lead to different kinds of stories being told or stories being told in a different way.

And to "should a game set in Central Africa then have a white dude for diversity reasons" is, to be honest, a stupid question. Because white dudes are represented. We have tons of stories about white dudes, but we hardly have any that takes place in Central Africa and are actually about Africans.

Minorities and women have for far too long been allowed to exist in stories first and foremost as women and minorities rather than actual people. And by representing them in stories - or games - we can change that.
Last edit: 02 Jul 2019 09:10 by mads b.. Reason: typo
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