Friday, August 31, 2018

Quick Review - For the Love of Board Games (Book) - Kickstarter Preview

For the Love of Board Games
By: Erin Dean
Publisher: Bookbaby
Quick Review - For the Love of Board Games (Book) - Kickstarter Preview
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Overview:
One of the most popular series on the GJJ Games blog is my People Behind the Meeples series.  In this series I pose a set of interview questions to game designers with a wide variety of experience.  I've included designers that have a bunch of published games, designers just starting out on their first game designs, designers who self-publish games, and designers who work with other publishers.  It's been exciting to learn about over 150 designers over the last two years.  I have had some more well-known names included in my series (including Keith Matejka, Scott Almes, Eduardo Baraf, Sen-Foong Lim, and others), but I have yet to interview any of the greats, like Richard Garfield, Matt Leacock, Wolfgang Kramer, Jamey Stegmaier, Martin Wallace, Bruno Cathala, or many of the other names that I'm sure grace your shelves.  That's where Erin Dean comes in.

Bruno Cathala
 Erin has spent a lot of time interviewing some of the biggest names in board games to find out more about them, the games they've designed, and their history in board games.  These interviews are much more in depth than the ones I feature, although there is some crossover.  Erin's interviews provide a ton of insight into each designer's processes, thoughts, and the evolution of some of their most well-known games.  Some of these are stories that you may already be somewhat familiar with, like how Robo Rally was actually the first game Richard Garfield tried to pitch to publishers, but you don't know the details that Erin includes in this book.

Each chapter is filled with insightful details into the life of a game designer.  In the Richard Garfield chapter, for example, we learn about how Robo Rally, Bunny Kingdom, Android: Netrunner, and King of Tokyo developed from early concepts to the classic games we enjoy today.  King of Tokyo originally started out with a fantasy theme, but as the game developed it became the monster fighting, city smashing classic.  As the theme evolved, so did the mechanics.  The new theme meant that new cards with cool new powers could be added to the game.  Bunny Kingdom was originally designed over ten years ago and was about dwarven clans, Android: Netrunner was a multiplayer game about competing hackers breaking into corporations before it became a game about one hacker vs one corporation, and Robo Rally has always been about battling robots.  Each game has a story about how it came about, the changes that were made, and the thought processes behind the development.  Even the very early days of Magic: the Gathering is covered in detail.

This isn't a book just about the history of modern classic games, however.  We also learn about the designers as people.  What makes them tick?  What were they before they were game designers?  What are their inspirations?  Who do they look up to?  What games do they play?  All this, and more, is discussed in each chapter.

So, who is included in the book?  There are a whole bunch!  You can see a full list of over 50 designers on the Kickstarter page, but some highlights include:

Richard Garfield
  • Matt Leacock: Pandemic
  • Bruno Cathala: Five Tribes, Kingdomino
  • Antoine Bauza: Hanabi, 7 Wonders, Takenoko
  • Jonathan Gilmour: Dead of Winter, Dinosaur Island
  • Jamey Stegmaier: Scythe, Viticulture
  • Richard Garfield: Magic: The Gathering, King of Tokyo, Android: Netrunner, RoboRally, Bunny Kingdom
  • Tim Fowers: Burgle Bros., Paperback, Fugitive, Wok Star, Now Boarding
  • Martin Wallace: Brass: Lancashire
  • Ryan Laukat: Above and Below, Near and Far
  • Reiner Knizia: Tigris & Euphrates, Lost Cities
  • Keith Matejka: Roll Player
  • Kane Klenko: FUSE, Flatline, Covert, Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Isaac Childres: Gloomhaven
  • Carla Kopp: Stellar Leap
  • Sen-Foong Lim: Junk Art
Each designer also has a portrait included, completed by character artist and illustrator, Robert Felton Schilling III.  These portraits provide a whimsical image of each designer, often in settings, poses, or costumes related to their games.


Final Thoughts:
Jonathan Gilmour
A few months ago I reviewed Wizards of the Tabletop, a coffee table (or better yet, game table) book with wonderful photographs and quick interviews with a whole bunch of designers, publishers, and other people in the tabletop industry.  That book was just what you'd expect out of a coffee table style book - each page or two started a new profile, the pictures were big and bold, and the hard cover layout is inviting to pick up and read for a few minutes at a time.  For the Love of Board Games approaches the subject at a much deeper level.  This is a book that you'll actually invest time into.  The chapters aren't short summaries, they're in-depth interviews and essays with each designer.  Each chapter is many pages long.  I don't have a final page count, but this will be on par with a paperback novel, not a coffee table novelty.

One of my observations of Wizards of the Tabletop was that it was full of "easy-to-read, brief articles" that "don't go into a lot of depth".  That was perfect for that style book, but if you're looking for more, For the Love of Board Games will provide that depth.

The chapter I was given to review is the same as the chapter that's available on the Kickstarter page, so you can see for yourself the kind of content you'll be getting.  I found the information about Richard Garfield fascinating.  I loved learning about his whole design processes, his inspirations, and the history of some of his games.  The chapter is 14 pages and covers a whole lot.

Matt Leacock
That said though, the chapter is still just a draft.  The writing was very rough and at times cumbersome.  The text was filled with grammatical issues and ideas often felt disconnected or scattered about.  The good news is that part of the Kickstarter funding is going towards hiring a copy editor to make sure that all the wonderful information is presented as professionally as possible.

I also can't fully comment on the content of other chapters since I haven't seen them.  I've made some assumptions based on what I've been told and what I've seen of Erin Dean's work.  If she put the same time and effort into finding out the stories behind the other games and designers as she did with Richard Garfield, then we're in for quite a treat.

This book isn't for everyone though.  It's even more of a niche than Wizards of the Tabletop due to the depth and breadth of the coverage.  It also helps to have some familiarity with the games discussed since there's discussion of how the final theme and mechanics compare to earlier versions.  If you're all about tabletop games though, especially if you're a designer yourself, this should be an invaluable read.  Personally, I look forward to learning more about some of my favorite designers.

Dominic CrapuchettesReiner Knizia

For the Love of Boardgames is available on Kickstarter through September 27 (early in the morning, so don't procrastinate too long).  You can grab a copy of the book for $25 ($10 for just the digital version), plus shipping.

This review is of a draft of one book chapter.  Content is not final and is subject to change.


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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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