Quirkworthy’s Ramblings: A Golden Age

This article reprinted by kind permission of Ravage magazine.

 

We live in the Golden Age of Gaming.

Look around and you find more companies than ever before producing games and games paraphernalia: vast libraries of board games, acres of tabletop games, terabytes of computer games, legions of finely sculpted models in a dozen scales and every genre, plus phone apps, laser cut HDF scenery, paint racks, dice towers, flock, personalised dice cups, putty, tools, and fancy dice in every colour of the rainbow. Half a dozen new materials are used now compared to when I was a child, and there are new ones added every year.

How much have you seen?

If you’re like most gamers, you play the same games with the same opponents most of the time. Of course you read Ravage and this brings you a selection of what’s out there, but are you still missing something? I think you are.

Ones and Zeros

New technology has allowed anyone with a good idea to try their hand at producing a game. Video games obviously rely on advancing technology, and in my lifetime they have gone from nothing to the incredible fictional realities we see today. Technology such as 3D printing is on the cusp of changing the way we make and buy miniature figures. Design and layout software includes templates for you to pour raw text into, making it easy to produce slick looking rules. Print On Demand companies offer the ability to upload your designs and have them printed in as large or small numbers as you like. Gone are the days when you could only produce a game if you mortgaged your house to pay for the print run. Now you could use Kickstarter or Indiegogo to test the market – and for Zombiecide, Sedition Wars and Kings of War this has proved very popular – but you don’t have to be a large company to do this. Search for games on either site and you’ll see a wealth of one-man bands trying their luck.

So with more and more people making new games, and a global marketplace that you are part of, there are bound to be many hidden gems just waiting to be found. You just have to look. And how do you look? Again, technology. Your smart phone or computer gives you access to a global marketplace that never sleeps, and this wealth of gaming delights are just a click or two away.

Your Mission…

I have some homework for you. Before we meet again, explore some of the less obvious valuables from this Dragon’s hoard of gaming wealth. Ignore, for a moment, the gleaming marvels of the companies you know so well and see what lies beyond them. Look for the passion and verve of the little companies and forget the safe and familiar you usually stick to. True, safe and familiar is comforting and means that you always have people to play with. But it misses some outstanding games, and some wonderful experiences. Why deny yourself these pleasures?

Go out and find a game you’d never heard of before I sent you looking, learn how to play and, if it’s any good, show it to a friend. By all means reach for your wallet if you wish to, but this need not cost you more than a little time. You will probably find something with a free pdf rulebook and you already have playing pieces you can proxy a game with.

Above all, enjoy the journey.

By the way…

When did you last play a game for the first time? Not a new edition or an expansion – something you’d never tried before. When was it made by someone other than the major companies?

If the best game ever was one you never played because you always stuck with safe and familiar, how would that make you feel?

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22 Responses to Quirkworthy’s Ramblings: A Golden Age

  1. varagon says:

    I just recently (Saturday) played Flash Point: Fire Rescue, at a convention and loved it.
    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/100901/flash-point-fire-rescue

    It’s a fun cooperative game where you try to rescue victims from a burning buildings. Some what in the same vein as Pandemic and others.

  2. tinfish says:

    Flames of War was the last game I played for “the first time”, only heard of it a few months ago, now I have no money and no room 😀
    Love the game.

    Mansions of Madness will be next on my to buy list, once I round off my forces a little more. (famous last words)

  3. Funkychef says:

    Intersting and quite apt article, I will however hold off on going out to try something new.

    My reason? I tried X-Wing for the first time 2 weeks ago, and plan to get the starter in the next month (not a small company I know) but I am also awaiting Godslayer from Megalith games in the next month or two which is a smaller start up and will be taking my attention to show off to new people. I’m also expecting the quick start rules for Darklands next month as well, so I’m not short of new games to try

    I will of course be singing the praises of any new games I come across which are interesting and fun to play everywhere I can 🙂

  4. goreshade says:

    It’s still in Kickstarter but Arena Rex looks like a great game from a new company. I’ll probably back Myth and pick up Arena Rex retail. but the cool thing for Arena backers is they get to be beta playtesters this summer.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I never know whether the public being beta testers is a good idea or not. I get enough testing myself, so I’d rather have something finished. However, I do realise that I’m not in a normal position in this regard, so it may seem a lot cooler from the average gamer’s viewpoint.

      Arena Rex looked very pretty with both art and sculpting being top drawer. You pay for it though. I was tempted by it myself as it uses some mechanics I’m rather fond of (and one you’ll see a version of quite soon). In fact, I was trying to remember where I’d first seen it (and couldn’t) and then they used it as well. Must be in fashion 🙂

      • Ben says:

        A friend has pledged for enough gladiators for two players so I’ve been saved from this temptation. I did get him to add a couple of them as extras to his pledge for me, though. I’ve vague ideas of putting a fantasy New Kingdom Eyptian force together* and they’d go well with it.

        * No idea what game I’d use them in, probably wind up having to write it myself.

  5. mattadlard says:

    Its funny, yet was thinking about this a few weeks ago, and that ones reintroduction back into the hobby was by purchasing ‘The Rules with no Name’ for a quick game and then spotted the new game which was to catch me, God of Battles, as a serious game to pick up; Then Rick Priestley’s new Dark Space Core to keep tabs on and go with. Yet over the years one has tried to keep an interest partly from a design interest and fun reason.

    But what was fascinating was the Free War games page with so many innovative and some not so good ideas. But it offered a glance into the hobby that cold have passed me by.

    But what makes it more of a golden age for me is the old rule sets for older games that suddenly get a dust off and a look at from a more mature interest and position.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I like the idea of the free wargaming rules page, but having spent a whole day rummaging through it and reading loads of sets I have to say I was a bit disappointed. There may be hidden gems (there are so many that there must be some), but I couldn’t find them.

  6. Dave Yeeles says:

    I don’t know if they’re classed as a small or large company but Too Fat Lardies produce some good rule in the historical side. Something that they’ve recently started is publishing other peoples games for them.

    What I mean is that if you have a good idea for a rules system they will help you produce it, including play testing and putting the rules into PDF and then host it on their site for no more then a minimal charge to cover their costs. It’s all about encouraging people outside the industry and bringing new ideas in.

  7. davekay says:

    Nice article Jake, I wrote something similar myself not long ago – there’s just so much choice out there compared to when I started with miniatures in the early 90s. http://scentofagamer.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/goldenage/

    To answer your question – 7 Wonders (board game) and SAGA (miniatures) would be the most recent games to fall into that category, and they are both games I enjoy playing a lot, and am happy to have bought into.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      What is very self-aware of us all is that we (gamers as a group) seem to be realising that we live in a golden age while we’re still in it. Often the term is only used retrospectively, but I wrote this article last June and have seen a fair smattering of other articles using the same term, similar arguments and conclusions since. It’s not that everyone was copying me at all, and I’m sure there were others before last summer – it’s just an idea whose time has come.

      I have to disagree with your comment on 3D printing though. I think it has the potential to cause all kinds of havoc for the miniatures industry.

  8. MP7VRN says:

    I’m sorry to spoil the mood, but is it really a Golden Age?

    Gaming market is so overcrowded you cant believe it. Poor customer/gamer is not only spoiled for choice none, even gaming magazines are not able to cope with the amount of games appearing. Mind you, they still paid to tell us how awesome the next big thing will be. According to yearly survey of Entertainment Software Association (http://www.theesa.com/) number of people playing at least some form of computer game have risen from 56% in 2010 to 72% in 2011 in US. Yet there is no sign or form of slowing down or market agreement. In late 80-s (I’m old enough, thank you) the whole industry of 8-bit and 16-bit console games crushed because people were simply flooding the market with cheap and sometimes free games just slightly different from the big titles. The big companies went bust and then the was none to support the consoles and industry virtually died, until arrival of PC and Play Station with their high tech requirements. These kept gamers on constant upgrade, but now we are reaching the technological limit of this technology.

    On table top and board game market things are even more grim. It much cheaper to enter this market, and competition is even more deadly. Unless the game gets a big PR support it will probably not make it to cover production expenses. Hence the one-man-band is trying to minimize the cost by crowd-funding. Even then, the game’s life is less than couple of years. Board games have even less playing time, as they pile up on the shelf.

    And then comes the quality… Bigger choice – less control – and you get more and more games that either not tested or not balanced. With the constant effort to prolong the product’s life the updates are breaking even that balance what has been achieved.

    So if that is a Golden Age? I doubt that.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      No need to be sorry there. Even if we could prove it was not a golden age my mood is fine, thanks. Always happy to debate opinions. Nothing troubling about that.

      You are entirely right that the gaming market is very crowded, and getting more so by the minute. It is a challenge in a number of ways, though I don’t see it as a disaster by any stretch. It seems to me that there are as many upsides as downs, and it proves a vitality in the industry rather than its imminent demise. The comparison with early computer games is interesting but difficult to entirely port across to figure and board gaming because the changing technology that was at least as responsible for its death does not apply in the same way.

      It has always been very difficult for the one-man band to get a game to market and make a profit. Crowd funding has actually made that easier rather than harder, so I don’t agree there. Of course, it means that there are more games in the marketplace, but instead of having to take a second mortgage and the risk that his game will not sell, our one-man band can now see if his game has legs or not by putting it on Indiegogo or KS. If it fails to fund he keeps the roof over his head. How is that bad? Seems like a massive leap forward in safe options for the small guy.

      Small games have always relied on passion to keep going and the vast majority are done as part time ventures in someone’s spare time. Only a tiny number of the games produced by these cottage industries will break through to be widely known. That has always been the case. I’ve been working in gaming since the mid 1980s and would say that the internet in particular has made it far easier for a lone enthusiast to get his project publicised and in front of a mass audience than ever before. Again, that seems like a good thing for little publishers.

      You also say that games have a short shelf life. That’s true, but again it always has been so for most games. Only a few make the cut as long term games and that hasn’t changed. When I was 18 the ancient wargaming period had a number of games systems available. The market was dominated by WRG rules, but there were others. These were all small, poorly supported and not widely known, but they were there. You seem to be suggesting that this is a new facet of the gaming market, but it’s not. Small companies have always had a hard time getting a major game.

      Sadly, poorly tested or balanced have also always been around and it doesn’t seem to me that the percentage has changed a great deal. If anything the market has become less tolerant of imbalance. I do agree that the constant updates is not a good idea unless it has been planned from the start. That would simply make it a staged release, which is different from the knee-jerk responses you see from some companies. On just that note I’ve been commenting on a post this morning asking for updates to fix a perceived issue with the balance of DreadBall. The game is less than 6 months old and not all of the planned releases are even out yet. Too early to change stuff I think, and as you say it’s only likely to break something else if we did.

      To sum up. I agree that there is more choice than before, but I think that’s a good thing not a bad one. The majority of the problems you point out have always been there and don’t seem to be changing. If anything, crowd funding is making it easier for the little guy, not harder.

      But will the bubble burst? Possibly. I think that is largely linked to the idiot politicians and greedy bankers who’ve been allowed to spend the last couple of decades lining their own pockets. If they mess up the world economy badly enough then it’s all in the can, not just gaming. I don’t think gaming is in particular trouble though. Why would it be? Gamers like new stuff and are willing to pay for their pleasure.

      Few gamers are ever likely to know all of the options they have to play, and that has always been so. We have more ability to search a worldwide marketplace, but then it is more crowded so the challenge remains. Again, I don’t see a real change other than in magnitude.

      • MP7VRN says:

        Thank you, your reply gave me a food for thought. i completely agree with you on the point about quality of games and balance. However I still doubt that our current phase is Golden Age of gaming. We may have a discussion about what is Golden Age, but I’d rather concentrate on what trends may put our beloved miniatures games in danger.

        1. Technology.
        The reason I’ve mentioned the console gaming crush of 80’s was to bring an example of what happens when tech is simple and market not regulated. We (i will leave PC and console games out of equasion from now on) are coming to situation when high quality 3-d print and crowd funding will allow anybody to make a game and sell it. If in the old days, this simple fella had to take another mortgage and make serious calculation in both game design and business parts of his projects, then now risks and costs are significantly lower. The mortgage alone put away majority from even attempting, or at least required a good team and business strategy. But now, new games will be coming as Hong Kong movies: in swarms and all with similar content.

        Those who have a real skill and tried and tested reputation would have to fight not only against the swarm of wanna-be, but also the i-will-borrow-to-sell cheaper guys. That is where the doom sirens will start singing. When (not if) tech will allow them to make either copies or analogs much cheaper than company holding IP whey will eat away large portions of market and probably send many companies down, or at least make profitable business in this area very difficult.

        Simply put: welcome to China. for every one model at the price of £15 we’ll make dozen at the same expense. Competition may be good, but cheap and dirty is difficult to beat.

        2. Overcrowding and Restrains
        As well as stuff mentioned point in the first part, I’d like to mention another important part of this hobby/business – social. If new games are coming every 4-6 months, the players will have a hard time to find “partner in crime”, and will more likely drop out or keep playing PC/XBOX games (they don really need so much effort).

        When supply of games will overflow the possible demand for this kind of entertainment people will start to buy less and be less interested in the new stuff. When a gamer has 2-3 projects each demanding 30-40 hours to complete, he has to stop purchasing at some point in order to finish or get rid of his project. That is already out current situation, when veteran gamers are bombarded by 20-30 titles of game lines as well as other entertainment, and still have a long pipeline of models to do. This, puts restrains on sales, thus slows down overall market growth and will make life even more difficult for both beginners and old sharks. (It is not a doomsday alarm, just a reflection.) Will it crash the market? Doubt it. Will it slow it down or bring some sort of monopoly-style agreement? May be. Will it bring a balance between major players? It should, as soon as others will catch up with GW.

        Well to sum up… its not a Golden age, may be an age of forming the new cornerstones?

        • Ben says:

          I fundamentally disagree with point one. Most of the reasons why have been covered on the 3D printing post comments. I’ll leave it at saying I strongly disagree that investment capital = quality.

          As to your second point, I do agree that there is a limited time in which to play games and nobody can play them all. That this will lead to people dropping minis games altogether is a non-sequiter. If anything, these games catch the former WFB/40K players who in the past left the hobby altogether when their three-year cycle was over.

  9. Ben says:

    I fall firmly in the camp of too many games. I’ve a core of about a dozen minis games which in an ideal world I’d have fully painted forces and armies for. Even then I’d still want to try every cool looking new thing that I come across.

  10. fiendil says:

    I was going to say the Puerto Rico and Ravenloft board games, but actually, it was Skull & Roses, Avalon and Rush & Crush, courtesy of doing FANGcon and a weekly FANG meeting in the space of a week.

    Puerto Rico was good. Skull & Roses was good but very much a party game to be played with beer and/or non gamers. Ravenloft, I suffered from my usual RPG affliction of being the first on the floor yelling “medic!” without actually having had the chance to do anything constructive. Avalon, while obviously good, was a bit too much talking and plotting for my brain (sooo much more fun being Oberon than being Merlin though), and the tiny wee vehicles in Rush & Crush felt a bit of a missed opportunity.

    Last new wargame? God of Battles, which I need to get my teeth into a bit more. Rules are straightforward and quick, but I’m not sure I’m getting my tactics right. Before that, Deepwars, which I love the models and setting for, but am finding the rules a bit… unusual…

  11. tinfish says:

    I added Dust Tactics (later Warfare) and Bolt Action to my list of stuff that might ship eventually.
    4 new games since I ditched GW stuff.

  12. Pingback: Put It Another Way |

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