Tag Archives: board games

Adaptation and Symbols

The other day I went to California Extreme, which is an arcade gaming convention held in Santa Clara, CA. It doesn’t hurt that my brother-in-law is one of the organizers, but it’s a really nifty event that I try to get to every year if I can. The core of it is just a huge room full of free-play arcade machines that people have set up, ranging from analog pinball machines to brand new independent arcade games (like Cosmotrons). Although arcade games are overwhelmingly the core of what CAX is about, it also features a single panel room, which has had some really interesting speakers over the years. I’ve seen panels from Atari veterans and the creator of Crazy Otto (the unauthorized Pac-Man enhancement kit that became the basis of Ms. Pac-Man), and this year, aside from a talk by Al Alcorn (who built the original Pong machine and worked on several other major Atari projects), I saw a panel by UCSC professor Nathan Altice about board game adaptations of video games, something he’s been studying in depth for a little while now.

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I actually own a copy of Milton-Bradley’s 1982 Pac-Man board game, which is kind of a strange beast. You set up a maze in the vein of one from Pac-Man, with two ghosts and 2-4 Pac-Man player pieces in different colors. The player pieces are molded plastic and for some reason the plastic is molded to give them rows of pointed teeth. On your turn you roll two dice and assign them to moving your Pac-Man and/or the ghosts, so that instead of an AI enemy, the ghosts are a shared weapon. Your can push your Pac-Man piece down on a marble and if it works properly it picks the marble up. You keep playing until you clear out all of the marbles, and whoever has the most marbles is the winner. The result plays fast but takes a little time to set up, and while there is skill involved, it has a level of randomness that pushes it more into simple kids’ game territory, especially in the eyes of Board Game Geek users. Of course, Milton-Bradley was marketing it towards ages 7-14, and selling in big department stores, so that’s not too surprising.

In the U.S., Milton-Bradley, Parker Brothers, and a few others published several board games based on video games in the 1980s, while in Japan, Bandai put out quite a few, and Namco made three. In the U.S., licensed games based on TV shows had helped revitalize board games in the 1950s, so it was pretty natural for the major board game manufacturers to pick up video game licenses during the video game boom of the 80s. Today there are some sophisticated adaptations of video games from hobby game publishers like Fantasy Flight, but Milton-Bradley was selling to families through department stores, so their games tended to be simple and perhaps more “literal” in their adaptations than a hobby game designer today would create. While the number of components in the Pac-Man board game isn’t especially large compared to some of the games out there, it’s not too hard to imagine a Pac-Man tabletop game that captures some of the feel of moving around a maze, trying to grab all the pellets and avoid the ghosts, without the need for a physical object to represent every single pellet. From Altice’s discussion, Pole Position was one of the more interesting video game-based board games, because it was essentially a bluffing game disguised as a racing game.

From what he said in the panel, Mr. Altice found the major parallels in these games were:

  • These games often tried to mimic enemy “AI” in various ways, whether through player choice, randomness, or “programming” by way of simple game mechanics.
  • Boards are an effective way of representing physical space. Single-screen video games (e.g. Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, etc.) translate well to a single board. When faced with scrolling video games, board game designers often used some form of map tiles.
  • Board game adaptations of video games were often translating a single-player experience into a multiplayer one, and it often proved difficult for the designers.
  • Manufacturers often marketed these as a way to bring the fun of the arcade home.
  • A significant portion of the effectiveness of an adaptation comes from aesthetics.

Exposure to a bunch of arcade games, combined with the panel, got me thinking a lot about adaptations and abstractions. Because of the way the human mind works, we live in a sea of symbols as much as a physical world, and game designers frequently take advantage of that. Video games used to use very simple symbols out of necessity due to hardware limitations. Some games would have epic cover art inviting us to imagine a bigger world based on very simple symbols (check out the Missile Command box art below, as opposed to the very simple lines and blocks of the actual game), while games like Pac-Man and Q*bert had their actual on-screen content and what you were meant to imagine looking very similar. They naturally took advantage of the newer symbols that these games created too. The Atari 2600 has limited graphics capabilities compared to the Pac-Man arcade machines, so the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man famously had kind of mediocre-looking graphics, but anyone who’d played Pac-Man would at least have no doubt that the lines were the dots and the white squares were the power pellets.

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Newer video games can show us basically any image they can fit onto a screen, so the use of symbols is more a matter of good UI design, and no longer just the only means available to communicate anything to the player. Board games have to provide a set of physical components, which gives them a very different physicality from video games. Board game components can include actual artwork, and didn’t have to conform to the limitations of early pixel graphics. Of course, they did have to deal with the limitations of mass-market board game manufacturing, which is why there were a lot of punchboards and stickers and not many detailed plastic figures. With current video games the amount of media assets a single game can include is massive, and tabletop adaptations have an even greater need to find the portions of the source material that they can represent effectively. On the other hand, a hobby game can have a higher price point and higher production values, so that you can in fact have a board game with a collection of detailed plastic figures if enough people back the Kickstarter.

Current pop culture is perhaps excessively about adaptations, remakes, sequels, and reboots. Some of these are bringing wholly new notions to different media (American Gods), while others trade on nostalgia and familiar signifiers (Ready Player One). While there’s no denying that Hollywood has gone overboard with the regular stream of remakes and sequels, part of why these things keep coming out is that people pay money for them. If you look at the lists of top-grossing films in recent years, stand-alone movies not directly derived from prior movies in some way are the exception to the rule, making up only one or two of the top ten. While originality is important to the long-term health of any creative medium, people enjoy seeing something familiar brought to them in a new way.

Any time you adapt a work to a new medium, you have to figure out what parts of the original to represent. That’s especially important when the two media involved are radically different. It’s striking when we compare board games to other media, because good board games comprise a set of rules interactions that are fun to engage, and don’t produce a narrative per se. They make invoke story elements in interesting ways (such as how Star Trek Expeditions has a card that creates a setback stemming from Kirk making a pass at the ambassador’s wife) and draw on a narrative for inspiration, but they need to be able to function as a construct of pure rules, even if the final product is making good use of aesthetics to add more flavor than that. The process of teasing out a game from source material can produce wildly different results, which is why Star Trek Expeditions and Star Trek Panic both have a distinct Star Trek feel, even though they’re really different games.

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The Fate Accelerated campaign I’m playing in is in a fantasy setting, but has a lot more to do with KonoSuba (the GM really wanted to do an isekai game) than D&D or Tolkien.

All of this is interesting to me as an RPG guy because RPGs are so dependent on a group of people having a consensus about a fictional world. The relative expense of licensing means that there aren’t so many licensed RPGs out there, but I feel like the medium and the culture around it naturally lend themselves to adaptation. RPGs are recontextualization engines, naturally serving as a framework for taking bits of culture and repurposing them in different ways. D&D is a mashup of pieces from practically everything in fantasy literature and mythology, given a unique spin. When people sit down to play it, they naturally use pieces of culture they’re familiar with, describing their original characters in terms of other characters from pop culture, using elements of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones to help build a story, and so on.

Even when we step outside of D&D, a lot of the most popular RPGs relate to works in some other media, whether with the directness of the Star Wars or Call of Cthulhu RPGs, or less overtly as in Vampire: The Masquerade or Fiasco. A lot of my own RPG design efforts have been about bringing different elements of anime into the realm of tabletop RPGs. I gave up on the idea of a “universal anime RPG” ages ago, but even the original anime creators can have different takes on the same source material, as shown by the different versions of Ghost in the Shell. I think part of why anime (and other Japanese pop culture stuff) interests me so much as an RPG designer is that despite its popularity, it’s underrepresented in RPGs. If I decide to make a superhero RPG (I do have an idea for one, because of course I do), there are already dozens out there, whereas if I decide to make a magical girl RPG, I can count the number currently available on one hand. Moreover, anime is even more a part of my group’s pop culture stew than stuff like H.P. Lovecraft or Lord of the Rings, and that’s stuff we want to explore and celebrate through RPG play.

There are some great RPGs that don’t owe allegiance to any specific source material (Dogs in the Vineyard comes to mind), and while I think the medium absolutely needs those for its creative health, RPG play all but demands tapping into other media as reference points, and from a design perspective, taking inspiration from other media can often lead us to try new things we might not have thought to do in an RPG before. Anyway, I’m not sure I ever quite reached a thesis with these ramblings, but I think there’s some interesting stuff here.

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Thoughts on Board Games

Today I bought a card game about farming beans. Specifically, Uwe Rosenberg’s Bohnanza. My interest in board games has increased quite a bit lately, and although I don’t have a lot of money to throw around, I’m nonetheless ending up buying things like the bean-farming card game.

I also got a copy of Sid Sackson’s book “A Gamut of Games,” a collection of 38 games, spanning board games, card games, and pencil-and-paper games, ranging from new works by himself and other designers to games found in publications from centuries ago. He was a prolific game designer, and from what I gather, he was an important figure in the development of board games. He pushed for more recognition for game inventors, and he was apparently part of the movement that led to eurogames. The games in A Gamut of Games mostly use traditional materials–a couple packs of cards, a checkers set, and a pencil and paper would be enough to play more of the games than not–but those games were by and large unconventional. Where I’ve found Hoyle books to get rather repetitive after the 20th trick-taking game (not that trick-taking games are bad, but there are enough that they blur together after a while), his book of card games (Card Games Around the World) has a baseball game played with cards.

Looking back, I think the major thing that’s changed for me is that I’ve just been exposed to board games that are variously more to my tastes or just plain better. With the exception of fond memories of playing Scrabble with my grandma, the board games I played when I was young just weren’t that fun for me. I don’t think I really have the right kind of mind for chess, and I found Monopoly just plain unfun and boring[1]. Although my enthusiasm for it has waned lately, Cards Against Humanity was the first card game that really and truly clicked for me, and it led me to other games like The Big IdeaDixit, Love Letter, and Dominion that I greatly enjoyed. There are still some games that do nothing for me (notably, games like Resistance or Avalon that are heavily based on bluffing), and although I seem to have a knack for picking up game rules quickly, I don’t have a lot of patience for complex games these days (though that’s definitely true of RPGs as well). I do kind of wish I had gotten into board games sooner, but on the other hand a lot of the games that really work for me are relatively recent. In essence the divide between the kinds of board games I played as a kid and disliked and the kinds I played as an adult and liked is the distance that designers like Sid Sackson advanced the medium.

Although I’m interested in board games for their own sake, I’m also doing all of this with an eye towards how it can apply to RPGs. RPGs have their own merits, but I think there are certain things that RPGs could stand to learn from them:

  • Compactness: Although there are a few board games that you can play as a massive campaign, for the most part they have evolved towards being more efficient and compact. Where a typical D&D session can be 4-6 hours, 2-3 hours is on the high end for the play time of board games. The pure role-playing has value and shouldn’t be eliminated or rushed, but the mechanical parts of RPGs include a lot of trends that make things less efficient, usually in the name of simulation or tradition, even if they don’t particularly add anything to the experience at the game table.
  • Teaching: There are exceptions (like pretty much every Fantasy Flight game I’ve tried so far), but by and large board games do a very good job of teaching people how to play. Some of that comes naturally from the rules being simpler, but RPG rulebooks often don’t seem to have a lot of thought put into the order in which you’d need to learn concepts. D&D (which I’m mentioning because it’s a well-known example, not because it’s exceptionally good or bad in this respect) has a lot of player options in the book well before the parts that would let you really understand the game well enough to make an informed decision about them. Mouse Guard is one of the few RPGs I know of where you can pretty much read the book front to back with no page-flipping and emerge with a decent understanding of the game. But even rarer is something like the rulebooks for Krosmaster Arena or Space Alert, which include simplified tutorial scenarios as well as the game rules.
  • Presentation: One of the major things that helps many board games achieve their efficiency is in how they efficiently provide information to players. I’ve written before about how D&D seems to have little to no thought given to how players are supposed to keep track of things at the game table, and I’ve certainly seen plenty of time wasted sifting through the PHB to figure out which thing from the character sheet to use. Apocalypse World‘s playbooks are one of the best solutions to this in RPGs so far, but that level of efficient reference seems to be pretty routine in board games.

One thing that’s emerging in my flailing attempts to begin designing card and board games is a series of games themed around cute witches going to witch school,[2] sort of like AEG’s many games set in the fictional nation of Tempest or Level 99 Games’ recurring World of Indines setting.

The first that I started on, but the one that’s proving the hardest to design is Magical Rail. I had the idea while visiting my sister in Washington D.C. She and her husband are huge into board games–my brother in law’s collection literally has over 700 different games–but since we got around D.C. on the train a lot it seemed like we had a lot of dead time, hence I had the idea of a game you could play on the train. The players would hold the (small number of) cards in their hands between them throughout the game, and gameplay involves a series of manipulations of those cards. It’s different enough from other card games (much less the relatively small subset of card games I’ve been exposed to) that it’s hard to figure out how exactly to proceed, but hitting on ideas like having players unable to rearrange the order of their cards (hence checking out Bohnanza for ideas) and 180-degree rotation of cards is slowly getting me to where I want to be.

The second is Magical Midterm, which started as an attempt at a light but still more strategic roll-and-move game, which I think grew out of playing Mario Party for the first time. In Magical Midterm instead of rolling dice you have a hand of movement cards, which include both basic movement and spells, which cost Mana Tokens. It’s still very early in development, and I’m planning to look deeper into race games in general for ideas, possibly going as far as to make it a game where each player has multiple pieces to move as in games like Pachisi.

Little Witches Duel is one I started on yesterday, and it’s basically a variant of the game Mate that appeared in A Gamut of Games, with a dedicated 20-card deck, a magical theme, and an attempt at adding in some Seiji Kanai style card effects. The result is (hopefully) a simple yet relatively deep 2-player card game.

Also on my list of possible games to do some day is a Slime Story deck-building game, though that would be quite a ways off.


[1]I’ve heard that Monopoly is a much better game if you include the auction rules, which seem to have largely been omitted from the oral tradition version of the game. My experiences with it were negative enough that I’m not really willing to go back and try again though.

[2]The idea popped into my head today to have reskinned versions aimed at boys with grimdark warlocks, but if I were to make something like that it would probably wind up being unspeakably sarcastic.

The Assumptions

I had originally been planning to take this and turn it into a podcast, but I’m still having trouble finding the time to do that sort of thing, and with this post already mostly written up I decided to finish and post it. It touches on a lot of stuff I’ve been blogging and tweeting about of late.

One thing that’s been on my mind a lot about tabletop RPGs is that there is a set of assumptions deeply ingrained into how people typically approach the hobby. For the most part these are things that are harmless in and of themselves, and in fact making their opposites the norm would be a terrible idea. However, I think the way people are so attached to them, so willing to assume that they’re absolutely necessary, is harmful to the hobby. All of this comes with the caveat that I’m in part reacting to people on RPG forums, and that’s an environment where a small number of very loud people can create the impression that their view is more widespread than it actually is.

You Don’t Need to Explain Stuff

There’s a ton of stuff in RPGs that’s left unsaid, and which people expect to be left unsaid. At the furthest extreme you have games with rules for character creation, skill checks, and combat, and pretty much nothing else. Compare that to a game like Polaris where the text outlines a very clear set of procedures of play, or games like Mouse Guard or Apocalypse World that function more traditionally but explain the designers’ best practices much more clearly. In the Japanese TRPG scene, where publishers know they can’t count on the “oral tradition” of gaming, they developed replays to better communicate how a game session flows, and for a lot of people Fiasco is vastly more comprehensible because Jason put a replay in the book.

I think of the things I’m going to bring up here this is going to be one of the hardest to properly address, because it’s difficult to step back and think about this sort of thing. It’s very ingrained in gamer culture that there are some things we expect everyone to just sort of muddle through, and at times the Forge’s exhortation to stop and examine what goes on at the gaming table has been met with out-and-out hostility. Some people have also reacted badly to how Apocalypse World so clearly lays out the canon method of being a GM/MC in it. (Though in AW’s case we are talking about one of the few games that includes a chapter on how to radically hack it.) To the extent that that’s simply based on how Vincent happened to phrase it, personally I’m aiming to use more accommodating language in my own games (“This is what I think is the best way to run Magical Burst, but of course you can do whatever works for you.”), but personally I just can’t find fault in a game giving clear advice on its own best practices.

This is also one of the areas where RPGs definitely lose out to the better board games and video games. A typical tabletop RPG dumps an awful lot of options and parts on the table and expects you to more or less figure them out before you really start playing. RPGs that have any kind of incremental teaching approach (again, Joel Shempert’s thing about “fluency play”) are very hard to come by. Even a small amount of gradation can go a long way towards making a game accessible.
Continue reading The Assumptions

Board Games and RPGs / Peerless Food Fighters

Of late I’ve been thinking a lot about board games and what RPGs can learn from them. I’ve said before that I’m not generally much for board games, but it’s hard to look at them and not admire the production values and sophistication. I started a thread on Story Games, which turned up some very interesting points that are very hard to ignore. I also hit on a game I want to put together as a sort of proof of concept, a new version of Peerless Food Fighters.

A lot of the stuff I’ve been able to properly wrap my head around has had to do with presentation, with product design. The thing about the traditional RPG format is that it has tremendous flexibility, longevity, and economy, but it achieves those things by way of sacrificing presentation, teachability, and ease of use. When you buy an RPG you get a book, and that’s it. You have to dig through and absorb an enormous amount of text before you even get started, you have to provide all of the other materials yourself, and you have to do a lot of work to prepare and get everything together, often making a lot of decisions you can’t fully understand until you get well into the game. You get stuff out of the deal–I wouldn’t for a moment suggest tossing out traditional RPGs–but here’s yet another avenue for trying things out and creating something new with its own distinct merits. The better board games do a really good job of easing you in to learning how to play. I recently tried playing Space Alert with some friends, and the game is impressive for how it sets up a series of tutorials that gradually add more of the full game’s mechanics. That’s especially important for Space Alert, which expects you to work your way up to being able to use the cards and such to plan out all of your moves over the course of 10 minutes, and then resolve them all once the recording ends.

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The best pithy one-liner from the SG thread is from TylerT, and it goes, “Your game is not a book.” This is true no matter what kind of tabletop game you’re talking about. Even if the book is the whole of the presentation, the actual game is what happens at the table, and the book is the means of teaching it. Board games can be really good at putting game content into easily digestible chunks, while many RPGs subject you to a huge infodump before you even start playing. This is an instance where for example Apocalypse World, with its playbooks and such, really shines, especially on the players’ side of things. My recent forays into card games have been really interesting just for how it’s become a routine thing that for a game I’ll have a Word doc of the rules and an Excel spreadsheet of cards, often with the latter having more text overall.

Board games are also free to be much narrower in scope than RPGs typically are. That’s another one of those things where I wouldn’t want every RPG to be that way, but I would like it to be a viable choice. Going back to the thread, one person pointed out that for example wargamers are really big on putting together elaborate terrain, but they have one battlefield for a given hours-long game session, and wouldn’t put up with having to set up a single-use battlefield and minis for many small battles the way you do if you use miniatures in D&D. Chris Engle‘s Engle Matrix Games are RPGs with small, simple boards, providing a map element that’s self-contained and manageable. Somehow people act like it’s just totally unthinkable to have an RPG with any real limitations on the scope of the game. Looking at some of the board games that have entered my life lately, there have been things like Space Alert (where you play the crew of a Sitting Duck class spaceship for 10 minutes as it records data and you push buttons to try to fend off alien attackers) and Red November (gnomes try to survive in their deathtrap of a submarine until help arrives). I like the idea of RPGs that in essence give you a recipe for something with the scope of a movie and let you go at it with little to no preparation. (Though I have found that the more complex board games are like RPGs in that they run a hell of a lot smoother if someone has read the rulebook over in advance.) The next step up from there in variability is something like Fiasco, where in a sense there are dozens and dozens of downloadable “boards” to play with.

There’s also some stuff to do with how the actual gameplay is structured that I need to dig into more. Here are a few snippets to chew over:

  • Make losing fun.
  • Balance cooperation and competition.
  • Structure gameplay so that you need to watch closely while other players are acting.
  • Emergent rather than front-loaded complexity.
  • Emphasis on building up things.
  • Toys/tactile elements are fun!
  • Small social footprint.

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A big part of why Peerless Food Fighters so readily came to mind in terms of being an RPG with board game type presentation was that it was already one of the more board game-like RPGs I’ve done in terms of its mechanics. Even so, going all-out with that type of presentation has been really interesting. Like my dalliances with designing an RPG in the form of a smartphone app (and I really do need to get more work done with Raspberry Heaven), it opens up a whole different set of options and constraints. I’ve taken to calling it a “role-playing board game,” which I think sums up what’s going to be in the box pretty well. Stuff that I would ordinarily have in the form of Yet Another D66 Table instead becomes a small deck of cards. Looking at board game components is also just way more fun than it has any right to be, and I end up wondering what I could do in the way of an RPG that uses things like colored plastic rocketships and various types of meeples. Since I’m aiming to do it through The Game Crafter, their available selection of components is influencing some of my choices. One interesting but subtle things is that since I want to have clear color coding for the six pre-made characters and I want to have colored card stands for the character cards, I’m limited to the six colors they have the stands in (red, blue, black, white, yellow, and green). I think that actually made the character designs a little better, since it forced me to have more realistic colors, and avoid the obvious choices like having one character be mostly pink.

As I write this I’m planning for PFF to have:

  • Event Deck (which provides situations for scenes)
  • Complications Deck
  • Fate Deck (a 32-card deck that’s like a paper d6 peppered with special effects)
  • Score Board
  • Map
  • 6 Character Cards (w/card stands)
  • Pawns (for use on both the score board and the map)
  • Applause Tokens (which will probably the least changed element from the old version)

The rules booklet will be an important part of how you learn the game, but thinner than in a lot of Fantasy Flight’s games. I do think the way I’ve set it up potentially lessens the impact of the role-playing aspect, but it also focuses it, so that you’ll hardly ever want for ideas for what to do.

The essential practical stumbling block for hybridizing board games and RPGs is cost. You don’t normally manufacture board games in quantities of less than 1,000, and for an independently published RPG that would involve some unwarranted optimism. For that reason I’m pretty sure the new PFF is going to be more of a proof of concept, with a print and play prototype and maybe a Game Crafter version with little to no profit margin. Outside the unlikely event that PFF takes off beyond all expectations, on a commercial level this is going to be more of a trial run for something more mainstream (the cynic in me is whispering about Cthulhu here) and more ambitious.

Fantasy Flight Production Values

For the most part I don’t like board games, though I do occasionally let myself be dragged into playing one for social reasons, owing to the substantial overlap between RPG players and board gaming, not to mention my brother-in-law being so ridiculously into board games. For me it’s kind of like, why play a board game I feel like I’m playing an RPG where something important and essential has been taken out.

In any case, the other day we tried to play Mansions of Madness, an Arkham Horror derivative from Fantasy Flight Games. We actually didn’t get that far, in part because my friend who owns the game hadn’t actually even opened the box yet, and it seems to be the kind of game where you need to read the rules beforehand. What really struck me about it though, which was something that was also true of Warhammer Fantasy 3rd Edition, was that in some ways the very high production values of the game worked against it. Fantasy Flight apparently loves to have games with numerous components of various kinds, especially in that thick, colorful card stock you have to punch out before you play the game. Even more so than with Warhammer, this is a game that really would’ve benefited from dropping at least some of the tokens in favor of a more RPG style way of tracking things. For example, each character has separate skill cards, a character card, item cards, and can accumulate various tokens that can represent damage and madness. The Keeper has threat tokens, time tokens, a set of threat cards, three combat decks, and I think several other things that we didn’t actually get around to even using in the game. Looking at all that stuff, I can’t help but think that you could easily halve the number of components the game involves, which would in turn speed up play simply by reducing the need to sift through all the components to find the thing you need. On top of that, at least for Mansions of Madness, the designers seem to have been strangely reticent to label any given component according to its function. It would have been nice for example if the item cards had said “Item” on their backs, not to mention if the many, many kinds of tokens had given some indication as to what they are beyond a colorful picture.

This is really interesting to me because for a while I’ve wanted to explore how RPGs can use different kinds of components in different ways, and it hadn’t occurred to me that there could be a point at which components become a burden. I’m not familiar enough with the medium of board games to know how much of this is a board game thing and how much is a Fantasy Flight thing, especially given that I even more seldom let myself get dragged into playing the more elaborate board games. However, looking at Mansions of Madness, a game with absolutely amazing production values and an $80 price tag, it’s weird to me that design-wise it falls behind some much cheaper RPGs in certain ways. My friend Grant owns several titles from Fantasy Flight, but where we’ve played them he’s inevitably wound up griping about the poor organization of the rulebook. I feel like board game players put up with things that RPG players would be quick to brand as heresy, and I’m not sure what that says about either group. Mansions of Madness has apparently gotten favorable reviews and even won a Golden Geek award (for best thematic board game), whereas Warhammer Fantasy 3rd Edition was massively reviled online solely on the basis of news of how it would use certain board game components and not be exactly like prior editions. Of course, to the extent that I would advocate using board game components and techniques in RPGs, I would not advocate using entirely separate categories of components for things that could much more easily be tracked on paper in the manner of a traditional RPG (the fatigue tokens in Warhammer being a very prominent example).

Of course, considering where I am as a designer (and to a lesser extent where RPGs are in general), making a game with so many components that it costs $80 isn’t really a serious consideration no matter what. I do kind of wish that RPGs could get away with that kind of thing more (look at just how much people freaked out over the price tag of WFRP3e), but then the $75 price tag is the main reason I don’t own a copy of FreeMarket. On the other hand, I do wish that people who play RPGs (or at least people who post about them online) didn’t come off as being so over-the-top purists about the kinds of materials that games can use. People freak out about things like the possibility of losing components from an RPG in a way that they just don’t seem to about board games. This is especially weird to me given that tabletop gaming in general has such a DIY streak that you would think that people would be quite willing and able to overcome any limitations imposed by materials on their own. Certainly people have no problem using just about anything imaginable as miniatures for D&D, and Wizards of the Coast probably ought to be taking a hint from all the fan made expansion for the D&D board games.