As part of a long-overdue cull, I’ve been working through my solitaire boardgames lately to determine which ones to keep. One issue I run into frequently is boardgames covering important information. I wish they’d stop doing that. And it’s not just a pet peeve; it’s a philosophy. One of the great strengths of boardgaming is being able to present information all at once. And yet that’s so often compromised by games that just plop tokens on the board or stack chits willy-nilly or don’t think about how cards are played or rely too much on player aids and so forth. It’s a fundamental part of a game’s interface, and I’m astonished how many games fail to understand this.
I’ve been playing – and, weirdly, coming to appreciate a lot more – the third edition of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror boardgame. Here’s how it looks:
This is called a neighborhood. More specifically, it’s the Merchant District, with three separate spaces. Daniela Reyes is in the upper left at the Uninvited Isle, there’s a River Skulk on the River Docks, and you won’t have any problem getting a table at Tick-Tock Club, what with the lack of a crowd. The clue token in the middle is a goodie to be collected, accessible from all three spaces. The little red tokens are doom. As the game progresses, doom spreads:
When there are five doom in total, or three in any one space, there goes the neighborhood! Now you have an anomaly, which means 1) you can’t collect the clues and 2) any additional doom pushes the game clock toward failure. So you mark an anomaly by placing an Anomaly Token:
So let’s pretend it’s several turns later and we’ve got a card that references the Merchant District:
Hmm, I see Rivertown and Miskatonic University down in this part of the map. But where’s the Merchant District? Wasn’t there a Merchant District? Can anyone direct me to the Merchant District?
I know why they have a big-ass token to mark an anomaly. Because it means the clues are locked and you can’t get them. So it makes sense that you might want to indicate this with something dramatic. But by covering the clues? As well as the name of the space? With enormous over-sized tokens? Whose bright idea was that? Because here’s what I think of it:
I think it looks better that way. Heck, I didn’t just mod Fantasy Flight’s Arkham Horror Third Edition, I improved it, aesthetically!
Please, boardgame makers, developers, and publishers, I implore you, stop covering important information!