Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Brass, The Mind, Metal Dawn, Railroad Ink


#4

Tom doesn’t sleeve his games… But has problem with metal coins pox marking his games? 🤔🤔🤔


#5

The situation with the rules for The Mind is actually worse than Tom suspected. The rules explicitly forbid all communication, verbal or non-verbal. At this point there is literally no point at all in the game, rather than just very little.

Mike was right in that the designer has then clarified that their group plays with a lot of non-verbal clues. So why do the rules not reflect this? Because, reasons the designer, people will always play a little fast and loose with rules that limit communication. If you explicitly allow body language in the rules, the players will start using gestures or something. So to calibrate the actual player behavior correctly, they wrote the rules to be stricter than that.

I hate hate hate this idea of assuming the players won’t play by the rules.


#6

The “Iron Clays” that were available with Brass are just nice poker chips they designed. They come with their own chip rack that fits inside the game box.


#7

I really want to get the new Brass after hearing Tom talk about it. Sadly it’s out of stock at all the distributors at the moment.


#8

One thing you guys didn’t discuss is just how stunning the art is on those games. It really elevates the whole thing.


#9

We all have our own red lines in the sand.

And just because I don’t use card sleeves doesn’t mean I store them with components that will scratch up their backs! Really, though, it’s mainly sour grapes. Those clay chips @JPR posted look pretty darn sweet.

Ugh. As if I didn’t already hate The Mind enough. Hey, game designers, do your job. I didn’t buy your game so I can pick up where you left off!

Do you mean for Brass? To be honest, I hadn’t really noticed. I guess the irony is that it’s art of a sooty industrial wasteland. But the production values are really good, and that includes the artwork.

-Tom


#10

Really hope you guys keep this up as a regular feature. I like Mike’s insight into the retail side of things. (If you ever want a guest game designer on for an episode or two, I’d jump at the chance!). It really bums me out to hear about poor productions, like Metal Dawn. Speaking as a designer, I can only say that while I’d like to take responsibility for everything in the final product (“the buck stops with me”), that’s pretty far from the truth. Developers and publishers end up having a lot more control over what the final product looks like, and they may even change rules or fail to fix a rulebook without informing the designer. In other words, my personal experience is that the industry isn’t particularly efficient and well-tuned, unless you’re talking about a major company like FFG. I don’t think it’s as simple as a moderately funded KS leading to lacksidasical final production.

I’m trying to avoid a rant here, but I think a major problem in the industry right now is that (most) publishers want to put out as many games as possible in a year to stay relevant and hope for that unexpected hit (e.g., Terraforming Mars) that can transform your company and give you some major capital to play with. The investment per game in terms of development and support can be fairly pathetic. So, overall, consumers are being flooded with tons of games that - in all honesty - have some really great ideas (because the design-space nowadays is amazing) but were not given the time and energy to hone them to a really finished state.


#11

Boardgames were meant to be played and enjoyed. I get sleeving cards, I guess, but I’d rather see and feel the cards as they were made. I love how worn the cards are in my copy of Incan Gold and Shadow Hunters, because it shows how well loved they are. I’ve played games with my friends at least once a month for years, I don’t make any rules about food or drink, and we’ve never had any catastrophic spills. We HAVE had spills, but most boards and cards are glossy enough that quick, careful clean-up keeps there from being any permanent damage, certainly nothing that makes the game unplayable.

I recommend focusing on enjoying your friends and the time you get to spend with them more than your stuff!

Now, LOSING pieces? Drives me batty.


#12

We are doing this regularly from now on! Glad you guys are enjoying it.


#13

Great stuff guys. Love that this will be a regular feature. But one point of feedback: please try and mix the audio better. Right now it sounds like Tom is shouting in one ear and Mike is whispering in the other. For people who listen to stuff like this in the car (where road noise can overwhelm a quiet channel so you have to turn everything up) or walking around in headphones (where ambient outside noise does the same thing) it can get uncomfortable. Record on two channels and then use Reaper to equalize them, or turn Mike’s microphone gain up, or have Mike speak directly into the mic, or something.


#14

Tom noticed the mix problem after the fact. It will be addressed in the next one!


#15

Cool, but please remind him that this is what audio mixing software is for - to remix stuffI He can still fix this one!


#16

You’re not allowed to hate The Mind until you play it. I picked it up on a whim because it was cheap and there was some buzz about it. After reading the rules and even playing through my first game, I wondered if this game was a total dud. There just didn’t seem to be that much to it. But after we got the hang of it and got a feel for the flow of the game, it was a big hit with my group. There is such a nice building of tension and then relief, or even outright joy when the group holds a bunch of tightly packed numbers and then rapid-fire plays them out in perfect order within a couple of seconds. That kind of thing happens more than you might expect as you start to sync up with each other.

I agree that it was an error of judgment on the developer’s part to completely prohibit nonverbal communication in the rulebook. The game is much better IMO when you allow some room for nervous fidgeting or laying down your cards because you can’t possibly have the lowest number. On the other hand, there’s so much gray area on the kinds of “tells” that might ruin the game that maybe it’s better to just let players use their own judgment for what they might tolerate.


#17

I just want to say something about Betrayal at House on the Hill. I haven’t played the Legacy version, and I apologize to Vesper who likes it, but I can’t imagine it being good.

The original Betrayal is one of the worst board games ever made, and I am not exaggerating. The first half of the game is a bunch of pointless wandering around. You’re collecting items and exploring rooms, but it’s all to no effect because you have no idea what you are trying to do. You don’t know what the victory conditions are. You don’t even know which team you’re on. What the hell is the point of a game where you’re making moves with no information about what the goal of the game is??

And then you get to the second half, where the players split up and go read different rules – and at least 50% of the time those rules are broken or impossible to interpret, and of course the players can’t get together to agree on what they mean, because they’re supposed to keep them secret from each other. (I understand that some of the most broken haunts have been fixed, but this was my experience). Also, in my experience, once you read the haunt rules, the game is usually already over; in that one side or the other has already, by accident, fulfilled their requirements, or can’t be stopped from doing so.

I already know the counter-argument, which is “It’s a great haunted house experience!”. To which I say, go watch House on Haunted Hill on Netflix. It’s a better haunted house experience without pretending to be a game. Or Evil Dead, or Cabin in the Woods, or… just anything else.

And then there’s the Legacy version, which, again, I haven’t played. But I have played Seafall, another Legacy game by the same designer, and it is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. The rules are poorly written, the unlocks change the rules far too much (you can suddenly be confronted with the fact that the strategy you’ve been molding your faction towards is now nonviable), and it is even possible to completely break the game, making it impossible to finish (we nearly did this).

So I’d warn anyone away from either of those games. If you really want to play a Legacy game, well, I hear Pandemic is good (although the same designer was involved), although it’s coop, which isn’t my thing, so I haven’t played that either. I liked Charterstone, I played that all the way through. And I hopefully am about to start the Scythe campaign expansion (which isn’t Legacy – you don’t alter any components, it’s completely re-settable, and playable as a modular expansion after/instead of the campaign).


#18

Pandemic Legacy is very good, and I don’t like regular Pandemic.


#19

I like regular Pandemic! Haven’t played Pandemic Legacy.


#20

There is software that will even out different recording levels? Or do you mean that’s what I should manually do using Audacity or something?

-Tom


#21

@JoshL, your comments about the non-legacy Betrayal game are certainly my take on it, as well. However, I think the appeal of the legacy version is growing a set of rules and playing pieces with the group. Whereas the original Betrayal just dumps you into a pile of stuff, some of which will be picked out for whatever scenario you happen to roll, the legacy version seems to slowly build up a shared toybox and a set of factions and characters that can interact with the pieces in different ways? At least I think that’s the idea based on reading everything before the strident DO NOT READ THIS YET warnings.

You misspelled “solitaire”.

I think it’s a safe bet that I will never play The Mind. I pre-hate it that much!

-Tom


#22

I blame autocorrect. Even though I wasn’t on a phone. Anyway, maybe you’re right about Betrayal Legacy! I dunno!


#23

The prosecution rests? Thank you. As public defender, I’d like to take the floor.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is not perfect. It has a terrible name, which sounds like someone jumbled up the words of the real title and lost a definite article along the way. It had a gajillion errors in its first printing, and probably dozens in its second. Some scenarios, even in the new edition, are not good, and a few are probably just bad. Preliminary proceedings against the Blob scenario for undue pain and suffering begin next week.

Questions about the rules are indeed tricky when you have two opposing sides, especially if the newbie at the table ends up as the traitor.

Most egregiously, even a perfectly fine scenario can tee up a haunt whose result is a foregone conclusion, due to how the other random elements shook out leading up to the haunt. I won’t bore you with my story of the time the Invisible Man got hold of a Pistol and was literally impossible to stop.

So. Is that all there is to say? String up BaHotH and good riddance? Is it, to quote my esteemed colleague, “One of the worst board games ever made”?

No, my friends. Betrayal is flawed. But it is nonetheless a flawed classic. And for good reason.

Observe that all the aforementioned problems with BaHotH–except for the downright criminal title–are a result of the game’s core premise: Random house, random items, random teams, random story. Let’s examine this closely.

Why so many errors in the scenario rules? Imagine playtesting this game. How many mistakes do you think you would find? How many test sessions is enough?

Confusing rules can lead to play mistakes, especially when you’re trying to keep secrets from your opponents. And you can’t put the most experienced player in as traitor, because randomness!

Foregone conclusions? Always possible, because of the variability of the game state when the haunt starts. Could be the survivors have a cakewalk. Could be the traitor is unstoppable. Could be you only have one of the rooms where you can search for the MacGuffin that can stop him… and it’s placed behind the Lord of All Demons.

Yes, they could have playtested more. But probably not sufficiently. And the result would have been pages of notes covering dozens of edge cases that don’t apply to most games.

Yes, they could have constrained the scenarios to work more consistently. But the result would have been more generic scenarios, where every object of power is found on the stair landing–because we know you have one of those!

Now I am just a simple country lawyer (puts thumbs under suspenders). But as a lawyer, I know contracts, and it seems to me that a board game is like a contract. The game publishers pay with their thought and labor, and you pay with not just your hard-earned money, but especially your time. So every game player ought to ask themselves: “What am I paying for, and how much?”

Now, my opponent was out in the field this morning, collecting up a bunch of straw to make his very own straw man that he could pummel in court today. “Betrayal is a great haunted house experience!” he says we all say. Is it? Sometimes. But a lot of it is seeing weeping women in the garden that have nothing to do with anything else that happens. Now, that’s not scary, or a great experience. It’s just a thing that does one die of Mental damage.

No, what BaHotH provides is the unexpected. And every board game can do that, but BaHotH does it in spades. And it does it with story, not just with the variables of game mechanics and player strategies.

Now as I’ve shown, the problems with Betrayal are not failures to capitalize on the core premise of the game. They are inherent properties of the core premise.

I believe my opponent may not like the game’s core premise. Or can’t abide the inevitabilities it contains. He may not think it worth his time and his money to sign that contract with BaHotH.

Now, I am just a simple country lawye— oh. Oh, I’m sorry, did I already say that. Sometimes, my head. I just don’t know where it’s going. You see, I’m not as smart as our Mr. L here. I have simple tastes, and I don’t need every I to be dotted and every T to be crossed, just so, when I play a board game. Let it be sloppy, if it provides me and my simple country friends with some fun! Why, when Margerie is the traitor and can’t figure out her secret rules… where’s the harm in her just asking me to read them and explain them? The secret’s out, sure, but it’s just one of many permutations that make this particular game unique, and no harm done. It’s a messy game, so it can be messier and me and my messy friends don’t mind none.

If the game lasted four hours? Well, that would be another thing. I don’t want to spend four hours only to find out in the last thirty minutes that I could never have won after all! Who does? But an hour, maybe hour and a half? And plenty of interesting things will happen, even if the scenario’s broken or my team gets a raw deal? Whatever! When we can laugh at the end at how Little Timmy tripped over every evil artifact imaginable and should have been dead before the haunt even started? It’s probably worth it. Who won again? I can’t remember!

Betrayal is like a gonzo horror story generator that throws every genre trope into a meat grinder with you and your friends. What comes out is never a filet mignon–that’s what you have Scythe for, or whatever. It’s always sausage, but if you enjoy all those things–especially your friends–then it’ll be some tasty sausage.

And if you like tasty sausage, then you must acquit.

Dagnabbit, now I’m hungry! Your honor, can we adjourn for lunch?