Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Battlelore: Lost In Translation

For background to this post, read my previous posts Battlelore is Pregnant & ...and Tide of Iron is the Baby Daddy.

Christian Petersen, the CEO of FFG, posted
a Q&A about the status of Battlelore on the Fantasy Flight website. What follows is quotes from that Q&A mixed with my comments/"translations" of what was said.
Q: Does Battles of Westeros use the same game system as BattleLore?

CP: No. While both are games of medieval army battles and have some slight similarities, they are different games... The classic BattleLore game is based on Richard Borg’s “Command and Colors” game system, while Battles of Westeros is an entirely new engine, one that is significantly more involved than C&C and more in tune with FFG’s design principles.
OK, no surprise here. These are different games & Westeros will not be treated as an expansion.
CP: We acquired BattleLore to be our core brand for medieval tactical warfare games (in the scale represented in the classic BattleLore game). The BattleLore name is not necessarily tied to Richard’s “Command and Colors” system.
As others have commented, this doesn't completely make sense. For those who like the original system (what CP calls "classic Battlelore"), slapping the name on a different game doesn't make us like it more. And for those who didn't like the "classic" game, it turns them off to your new product. This does not, at least to my untrained eye, seem to be a wise brand management move.
The classic BattleLore game (which we purchased from Days of Wonder in ’08) had an eclectic mix of a Fantasy and historic medieval theme that FFG has never been comfortable with. We solve this problem with Battles of Westeros, which will take on the role of our gritty, no-magic, medieval warfare game, while the classic “BattleLore” game’s trajectory will be of more traditional fantasy.
OK, an attempt at translation: "We had this Westeros game in development that was close enough to Battlelore that we realized we needed the license to not offend a truckload of gamers. And then we thought about selling a bunch of Battlelore on top of that & made the offer to Days of Wonder, who was already completely overwhelmed with what they had created."
Q: Will the classic BattleLore game continue to be supported?

CP: Yes. We are working on new releases as we speak, one of which will be announced on the FFG site in the near future.
Translation: "We will throw you guys a bone or two, so please stop gnawing on my leg as if it was made of Milk-Bones with your blog posts & general hysteria ."
Last year, Richard posted some ideas for “future releases” for BattleLore. Unfortunately, some fans took this post as canon, and are now expecting these specific releases. I think it important to note that while they were well-intended ideas of Richard’s, they did not fall in line with FFG’s vision. What we’re working on with Richard currently has no relation to anything in that old post, but something entirely new and different.
Having never read the original post by Richard (who is, btw, a very nice guy), I don't know what those ideas were. CP is exactly right here - ideas of the designer are just ideas unless the publisher puts up the dough to get 'em printed.
Q: Speaking of BattleLore, the main BattleLore game has been out of print for a while. Will this come back into print?

CP: There have been, and continue to be, some very serious issues in reconciling the production methods and expectations in the way Days of Wonder produced the BattleLore main game with those of FFG. We understand the lack of availability is an issue and we’re working on a solution...

There’s a particular trap in manufacturing games, and it’s one that applies here. The initial printing of a game is typically printed in large volumes, which means that certain efficiencies of this volume are not able to be replicated in a smaller (i.e. reprint level) production. This is a trap that FFG works hard to avoid in its own manufacturing, but the original BattleLore printing was of course not in our production control. Not only was BattleLore caught in this trap, but the game was priced aggressively to begin with, even assuming the best of production efficiencies. On top of that, the factory that DOW used for this production essentially admitted to pricing their manufacturing of the original BattleLore “to get the business in the door” -- which means that the costing levels on the first run was eminently underpriced.
Translation: "We would like to blame Days of Wonder for a problem we've owned since 2008. Since that seems a little cheeseball of us, I'll go into more detail & explain that part of the reason DoW was willing to sell this to us was they were struggling with the same thing and were more than happy to let us pay them for the privilege of not having to deal with it anymore."
This, set against the overall backdrop of an already steeply escalating cost in game manufacturing, has made the core game a serious issue. Reprinting the core game “as is,” would essentially result in a near $150 retail price point, which is obviously unacceptable.
Note: this sentence was tweaked in the last 24 hours... it originally read "near $200 retail price point".

Translation: "We won't be reprinting the base game in the same format. Do the math, people."

Q: Was this a surprise?

CP: When we took over BattleLore, the key value to FFG was the BattleLore brand. Which, as you can see, we’re carrying forward with Battles of Westeros.

We were concerned that the classic BattleLore base game, as had been created by Days of Wonder (“DOW”), was going to be troublesome on a production level. We did not, to be honest, expect it to essentially be non-manufacturable, as is the case.

Translation: "I won't answer that question, because it looks oopidstay for me to admit we bought a pig in a poke. Instead, I will wave our flashy new game in your face, hoping you'll pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Then I will once again tell you that the eBay/Geekplace value of an original base set should start climbing, as we will not try to punch that particular tar baby again."
So, as I said before, we’re working on a solution to this problem, and we have some short-term solutions that I think will work very well for players looking to get into BattleLore.

Q: Such as?

CP: I’ll have to defer the details and the exact “when” for another day when the details are more concretely in place (they are subject to change at this point.)
Translation: "We're scrambling here, but we really do have good intentions. Please don't make us promise something we can't follow through with..."

Some final thoughts:
  • I don't think FFG (or Christian Petersen) is the Evil Overlord in this scenario. They made a business decision that has turned out to be fraught with difficulty (and probably not helped in any way by the world economic situation) and so they're trying to make lemonade out of lemons without cheesing off a whole bunch of potential customers.
  • I think FFG has overestimated the value of Battlelore as a brand name separate from the game system released originally by Days of Wonder.
  • I think FFG underestimated the difficulty of producing Battlelore & expansions... and now they've got a tiger by the tail.
  • I'm glad to hear that there will be some kind of continued support for Battlelore... and I hope that it will wisely take into account the pre-existing fan base as well as the potential for bringing new players into the game. That's going to be a difficult task.

Legal Fine Print: Any comments that I made in my "translations" are purely speculative and indicate no real insight or information... they are simply my attempts at commentary & humor. Please do not sue me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

...and Tide of Iron is the Baby Daddy

For background information, check out my post from a couple of days ago, Battlelore is Pregnant.

Jormi Borced posted a lot of information about playing a beta copy of Battles of Westeros over on Heroscapers.com yesterday - which gives us some clues about BoW/Battlelore compatibility:
  • 8 sided dice (Westeros) vs 6 sided dice (Battlelore)
  • morale track/objective-based win conditions (Westeros) vs first to X flags win condition (Battlelore)
  • individual order decks customized pre-game (Westeros) vs common order deck (Battlelore)
  • command tokens/cards/back'n'forth impulse orders (Westeros) vs order cards & simple turn order (Battlelore)
  • light on magic/creatures (Westeros) vs Lore/War Council/creatures (Battlelore)
  • flanking/engagement rules (Westeros) vs... well, there isn't anything like that in Battlelore

In other words, Battles of Westeros is to Battlelore as Tide of Iron is to Memoir '44. (Comparison is NOT original to me - folks on the Geek said it first.)

Allow me to elucidate (and pat myself on the back for using a SAT-quality word!): Battles of Westeros is Battlelore infected by the FFG virus. The operative elements of the FFG virus are:

  • oodles of theme
  • scads of plastic minis
  • the "let's add some more cool stuff" design ethic skating across the the line into "we've added so much that the game is bloated, difficult to play cleanly & requires a FAQ roughly the size of a phone book"

My speculation, BTW, proved correct. This will not be compatible with Battlelore & may well spell the end of continuing official support of the original system. My plea is that FFG finish out the Call to Arms decks to include the expansions & publish a Campaign Book like the wonderful creation put out for Memoir '44 last year by DOW.

"Lost" & Found (he he he...)

My personal obsession with "Lost" + one of my favorite blogs + making fun of some of the stupid things we pastor types can pull trying to be culturally relevant = priceless!

With the show in its final season, you’re lost as it were with how to properly judge the quality of a Lost sermon. It’s almost as if you need a Lost sermon scorecard...

  • 8. The sermon compares the island to hell. = +3 points
  • 9. The sermon compares the island to heaven. = +5 points
  • 10. The sermon compares the island to purgatory. = + shout out to the Catholic readers...
  • 32. The “others” are compared to an out of control, power hungry pastoral search committee. = +3 points

Read the whole thing at Stuff Christians Like #714: The Obligatory "Lost" Sermon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Battlelore Is Pregnant

Well, not really... but Fantasy Flight Games revealed today that it will be publishing Battles of Westeros, which will use the Battlelore rule system. The "baby" is due in November, just in time for holiday fantasy-novel-series tie-in game-buying season. I'm extremely happy for Richard Borg, the designer (who deserves to make a ton of money yet another version of the Command & Colors system) and Fantasy Flight... but I'm not real happy for me.

You see, I have the bad, bad feeling that this may well spell the demise of support for Battlelore by Fantasy Flight. Battlelore is already on a second publisher (having originally been developed & marketed by Days of Wonder). My evidence, you ask? Well, there's really not any evidence, but this is the Internet so I will indulge in a bit of under-informed speculation:
  • The 3 expansions released have all had evidence of "get something out quickly" rather than "advance the franchise." (I'll detail this below, but I do want to note that I like the ideas behind the expansions.)
  • Given the choice between supporting a licensed tie-in with an extraordinarily successful fantasy novel series (George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones") and non-licensed medieval/fantasy world that is supported only by those who play the game, which one would you put your cash/energy/time behind?
Look, I think FFG is a great company - I've really enjoyed some of their games & they do a bang-up job with a number of different properties. I don't begrudge them the right to choose to make more money & sales for their company by transferring their attention to Battles of Westeros over Battlelore. I just hope I'm wrong.

And, since I brought it up earlier, my two cents about the newest Battlelore expansions:
  • Heroes has some nifty ideas and the sculpts are great, but the rules are NOT well-written and there are obvious mistakes in a couple of the included scenarios. (There's also a card misprint... sheesh. Hasn't anyone figured out how to proof these things yet?)
  • Dragons is another cool idea that has better rules but should have included the revised creature rules... and some more stuff. It's a pretty steep price tag for 3 figures & a smattering of tokens/cards.
  • Creatures ships this week... and I was stunned to learn that I was only getting one new figure for my $23 smackers. (Granted, it's a very cool figure - the Hydra.) I know that the Giant & the Elemental were promo figures that not everyone managed to snag, but that's a pretty weak expansion when that's all you have in the box.
With all that said, my son & I had a wonderful time this last week playing our first Hero/Dragon scenario... and we've set up a second scenario already. But the expansions feel rushed & as if they were only given a cursory glance... something I don't want for a game system we enjoy this much.

As more information appears, I'll keep you posted. Here's hoping I'm wrong.

BTW, the picture & information are courtesy of The Hopeless Gamer... give him some blog traffic/love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Can't Stop Lov... well, no - Throwing Up

As one of the folks who commented on this Stuff Christians Like post, "this is one of the most disgusting AND poignant posts I've read." Jonathan Acuff (the author) Tweeted it as "XXX, Ray Charles & throwing up," which is a pretty good 6 word summary.
Last Sunday was one of the worst days of my life.

I can say with very little Kent Brockman hyperbole that Sunday, February 14th will live forever on my top ten list of worst days ever.


Food poisoning.
And then he gets spiritual & honest & authentic... man, I love this guy. Read the whole thing at Stuff Christians Like #711: Throwing Up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Not The Church's Job

Once again, James Emery White doesn't pull any punches:
Why do people often come to a church? To get fixed, find friends, renew faith, or strengthen family. All well and good, and the church can obviously be of enormous assistance in all four areas. But the church can’t be held responsible for these four areas of life, nor should you expect it to.
Go immediately & read the rest of It's Not The Church's Job at his blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nurnberg Toy Fair - Game Highlights (courtesy of Die Poppelkiste)

It takes two (that's 2 in Arabic numerals, II in Roman numerals) different bits of Internet magic to bring you the latest information about kid games:
  • The first is the wonderful website of Brigitte & Wolfgang Ditt, Die Poppelkiste. Their reviews and previews of games are insightful & informative. And in German. (BTW, you may know Herr & Frau Ditt from their game designs, Nautilus & Big Points, as well as a lot of scenario & variant design for The Settlers of Catan.)
  • The second solves the whole "in German" problem - it's Google Translate. I can click from page to page in a website & get quickie translation of the pages. (Note: there's an art to reading these machine translations... they are literal to a fault & filled with odd syntax.)
With all that said, if you want to read this stuff for yourself, head to the Google Translation of their Nurnberg Toy Fair report.

Or you can simply read my paraphrase in the rest of this post - which doesn't require you to click away.

Here's some highlights:
  • More light games at Nurnberg than at Essen (or at least less "heavy" games).
  • The kid games feature a lot of use of magnetism & memory - which is basically the recipe for making Das Magische Labyrinth, the winner of the Kinderspiel des Jahres in 2009. (Well deserved award, btw... I'll be reviewing it soon.)
  • Their favorite kid game of the fair is Haba's Hexenduell (Witch Duel).
Now, after I've read through it, here's what I'm excited about:
  • Velo City (Abacus) - a tactical dice game about cycling
  • Regatta (Asmodee) - a sailboat racing game that uses a mechanic similar to Techno Witches
  • Hexenduell (Haba) - a magnetic dexterity game with a time element
  • Fauna Junior (Huch & Friends) - a kid-friendly version of the well-liked (as yet not released in English) animal trivia/estimation game
  • Snapshot (Kosmos) - a Rudiger Dorn-designed dexterity game for adults... really!
  • Seeland (Ravensburger) - a Kramer game about Holland & dikes & windmills
  • Turi Tour (Selecta) - send your animals on vacation... and somehow there's a blindfold involved!
  • Asteroyds (Ystari) - described by the Ditts as "RoboRally in 30 minutes"... excellent.
  • Heckmeck BBQ & Heckmeck Junior (Zoch) - 2 new ways to dice for worms!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The First "Dime" of 2010

February is "work on the Five & Dime Report" Month... there are more folks this (over 300) which should yield some great results but also mean I've got a lot of data compiling to do.

In my own gaming life, I've managed to reach my first "dime" (game played 10+ times) in 2010 by the end of January: Gelini Nightlife.

Don't be ashamed if you haven't heard of it - it was simply a BGG conversation about Essen games that brought it to my attention when Joe "Burger Joint" Huber & Dale "Dominion evangelist" Yu both strongly recommended that I pick up a copy. I arrived in mid-January and promptly became the most played game in my collection for the year.

I'll do a full review in the next week or so, but it's a Knizia-designed game, adapted from one of his earlier published designs (Tutankhamen) and made less math-y and more fun.

Other games that have been played extensively in the first 37 days of 2010:
  • Das Magische Labyrinth 6
  • Alea Iacta Est 5
  • Dungeonquest 5
  • Keltis: Der Weg der Steine (Mitbringspiel) 5
  • The Adventurers 4
  • Click Clack 4
  • Enuk the Eskimo 4
  • Heroscape Master Set: Battle for the Underdark 4
  • Marrakech 4
  • StreetSoccer 4