Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Guest Writer

Pub Life

By Morgan Dontanville

I was asked to write a series of articles by the inexorably likable Mary Weisbeck. She’s the kind of lady that you can’t turn down without feeling some kind of extreme guilt – something akin to not feeding a starving kitten. I figured that it would be a learning exercise, but who the hell wants to read yet another jerk yammer on about his self-important opinion of games everyone has already played. So, after weeks of not having a clue as to what I should write about, I figured that perhaps I should take a new angle on this. I would turn in something different; something fresh. I would write as a self-important jerk yammering about publishers.

Anyway, the following articles will be a series examining the through-lines and heartstrings of publishers that I respect.

Here’s Egg in Your Face (Part I)

If there is one thing that you can say about Eggert-Spiele games is that they are not for everyone. Imperial has a fragile opening game that can leave a player hanging with nothing to do from turn one; Neuland is a dry, clinical logistics puzzle; Space Dealer is an absurd frantic storm of chaos; Die Dolmengötter is a whacked out abstraction of semi-blind bidding area majority game; and Antike is a sterile game of jockeying for position as you elbow your way to a drawn out end game. I've heard that Global Powers boils down to who has the most overpowering cards as it devolves into a take that game; Tacara has a run away leader problem; John Silver is unintuitive; Flößerei is “broken” and well Duhner Wattrennen is just so hard to find I can’t get enough information to even parrot a brash criticism. These guys are the real underdogs of the industry. All in all I've loved every game of theirs I've played and really look forward to playing anything I can get my hands on and anything they put out in the future.

I didn’t know what to think when I saw my first Eggertspiele game. I’d heard whispers about Global Powers on the then young and scrappy Boardgamegeek. The minor chattering equated to something like Richard Heli’s 2003 Essen Release list and some random all inclusive geeklist about games with a world map in them (this was the time when I would read everything on The Geek). Around that time, I started to become more aware of the world of Boardgaming and began to see that it operated on a much larger scale than what I had presumed. About 2003 I started to realize that Rio Grande games didn’t publish their games themselves and that there were a number of independent publishers that put out their games first in Europe and if all went well someone would pick it up here. More importantly, it became clear to me that there were going to be a number of great games that just weren’t going to make it to the United States. The curtain had fallen.

That year I paid attention to this minor get together called Spiel that publishers had in Essen. One of the games that stood out was Global Powers. There was practically no word on it at all, and only a couple of pictures accessible on the net. So, I had to make up what it looked like in my head. There was a certain look of the time that led me to believe that all Euro games had a standard. All the boxes stacked, and came in a nice linen finish.

Picasso had a blue and rose period. I was simultaneously going through my poor and unemployed period, so buying this was out. My friend had tracked down a copy of Global Powers and I couldn’t wait to try it. I raced over to his place on the first free day to paw it for a little bit. Well, presumptions didn’t prepare me for reality. It was a thin glossy brick of a game, with a cover that looked like it was lifted off of a telecommunications pamphlet. It had a ton of bits, which I was excited about, but then it dawned on me…it also had a ton of cards…in German. At the time I was far from an early adopter when it came to games, so it was a real disappointment to get the chance to play a game that you’d really wanted to try only to discover that even in my grubby mitts I wasn’t going to get to play it. My friend was more experienced in these ways and planned to set forth in translating the cards. An impressive task, of course I don’t think I knew about Babelfish at the time.

Then worst thing happened, it got played without me. More importantly, it got played without me and tanked. This meant that it was never going to hit the table again and it wasn’t my copy so I couldn’t tote it along to groups that didn’t play it yet. To make matters worse the game didn’t tank enough for him to want to sell me his copy for cheap, and if no one liked it there was no way I was about to buy an expensive import game. Global Powers faded into the recesses.

From that point on I only gazed at Eggertspiele games longingly without ever getting them on my table. Soon all that changed. (End of Part I)

1 comment:

Gerald McD said...

Morgan --

Good to see you here. Yes, it's virtually impossible to turn down a request from Mary, as many have learned.

Nice first part; I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

-- gamesgrandpa