Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames

Sunday, August 30, 2009

BGTG 96 - Translations, Editions, and Revisions (with David Gullett)

Let me clear about this--most of the explanation for the delay in this podcast (recorded almost two months ago) is simply that I never got around to finishing & posting it. Part of that is because the show is longer than usual--longer than fits on a CD--and I thought I wanted to edit it down considerably. But as you know if you're a longtime listener, I don't really do that kind of editing. I don't do much editing at all, truthfully. (Feedback welcome on that, by the way.) After I gave up the idea of editing out so much content, I figured I'd just post the show in two parts, spaced about a week apart. Now that it's taken me another few weeks to even do that much, I'm giving up, deciding to post the whole thing. I don't think hardly anybody burns these onto CDs in 2009 anyway, and some gaming podcasts are even longer. So this is part procrastination/laziness, part experiment. Let me know what you think. Whew!

This is a topic of interest to the truly geeky, the ones that care a little too much about their games. That's me, and it's probably you, too. (After all, you're reading a boardgame blog, listening to a boardgame podcast! You've got it bad . . . ) You won't be in this hobby very long before you encounter some opinions, including your own, about which version of a game is best. The original? The one where they changed the artwork & components? Or the one where they redeveloped the game into something just a little different? Small World is the game that triggered me to record this episode. I'm a huge fan of Vinci, which was Small World's differently-themed predecessor.

Do I like Small World? Yes.

Do I prefer it to Vinci? No way.

Why not? Because of the theme. Vinci has a historic theme and map, while Small World has a fantasy theme and map. You know my preferences. I've heard some say that Vinci has no theme, but I don't understand that at all. Clearly we have very different ideas of what constitutes a game theme. (That's another podcast I'd like to tackle some day.) Of the several design modifications in the latter game, I prefer the original, but they're not a big deal. It's the theme that is driving my opinion, more than anything.

Which do I recommend? Well, it depends on the gamer, but I have to admit that most will probably prefer Small World. Certainly you can easily buy Small World, while Vinci is now, sadly, Out-Of-Print (OOP).
We talk about a lot more than Small World as I tried to generalize what's going on here. All those versions of Settlers, Cosmic Encounter, Medici, and even Careers make it in to the discussion.



Blogger donpaulo said...

good stuff. Posting anything is most welcome from where I sit.
Thanks for asking for feedback however :)

11:16 PM  
Anonymous davebo said...

Well, the good thing about it taking so long is that I'd forgotten most of what we said, so it was like listening to a new podcast to me!

Some interesting points to those who care:

* I mentioned that I put off buying games until a good time to buy pops up, and I said that Snow Tails and the new Dominion expansion were on my radar. Well, shortly after this podcast played Snow Tails and didn't like it at all, and I've also decided to put off buying the new Dominion expansion until they put out a few more and give me one big box for the whole thing.

* I say at one point the phrase "wiki worthy" in the podcast. At least I'm think that's what I'm saying. I have no idea what I meant by that. Perhaps I really meant "blog worthy".

4:11 PM  
Blogger Mark Johnson said...

"Wiki-worthy" was a joke at something I said on an earlier podcast, that the games I liked best were the ones that sent me scurrying off to Wikipedia in order to learn more about the game's subject.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Myers said...

Well, I enjoyed the heck out of this episode. Don't bother with editing, just stick them out there. It's always great.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Gregarius said...

I really enjoyed this episode, and look at this-- I'm actually commenting for once!

The only problem I had with the show is that it hit so many topics. If I were in the room with you, I could easily jump in and say, "What about such-and-such." But by the end of the podcast, I've forgotten most of what I wanted to say.

I'm guilty of buying versions of games for pretty much every reason you guys listed. Siedler especially comes to mind because I like the tile artwork so much better in the German version. And though I haven't done it yet, I'm sorely tempted to get the smaller box version of Through the Desert.

But the main thing I wanted to comment on had to do with your mention of theme regarding Vinci/Small World. Of course, this is a huge subject that I look forward to hearing a full podcast about.

One thing I think is important that I rarely hear anyone mention is that there are two types of theme:
--Theme as metaphor
--Theme as narrative

All games have both these types in varying degrees, but people tend to really only complain about the latter.

I think Acquire and E&T are very thematic metaphorically, because their themes helps you understand what you're trying to do in the game.

However, most people think of Arkham Asylum or Descent as "dripping with theme" because they tell a better story (even though the theme has nothing to do with game play).

With Vinci/Small World, the metaphor theme is identical, but the narrative theme is much stronger in Small World. I'm with you, Mark, in that I much prefer Vinci. It feels cleaner. But I really like some of the tweaks of Small World. I'll probably end up playing a hybrid.

Anyway, keep up the good work! Keep the podcasts coming.

1:32 PM  
Blogger jtakagi said...

Great show - this and the recent "Are Any of Our Games Classics?" remind me why yours is the best boardgame podcast out there. It is in depth and analytical. I like how you look at trends from a more precise angle than something like "What's gaming like in 2009?"

There is so much material in this podcast that it could easily spawn a whole bunch of sequels.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Mark Johnson said...

It was a while since we recorded the show, so when I listened to it again I heard some things I wanted to comment on or correct.

1. The cards in Merchants of Amsterdam don't really have German text on them. I got my stories mixed up. That was certainly true of some games, but not MoA. (Though MoA had some cool historical commentary that required a translation.)

2. Vinci itself is an example of what I called Editions and Revisions. Of course Small World is the recent revision, but even the original game had some differences between 1st and 2nd editions, making the 2nd more desirable. Mostly they fixed some errata on a counter and in the rules (Eurogames was notorious for errata). But they also changed the box cover art to something that looked better, although the poorly executed 1st edition cover invoked the theme better.

3. I nearly botched the story about Royal Turf versus Winner's Circle. A biggie I stumbled over was the fact that Royal Turf's horse names never change from race-to-race (only their movement rates/odds change). Although the pieces are all "horsey colors," they're EASY to remember (unlike in WC) because the horse names remind you of the colors! Othello is black, Saraha Wind is sandy-tan, Red Foxx is reddish, and so on. That's smart game production, marrying artistic presentation with ease-of-play. Winner's Circle didn't do that so well.

4. Through the Desert is now ubiquitous, but old-timers used to call it Durch Die Wüste (or DDW), often mis-pronounced so it meant "Through the Sausage." Some people knew Princes of Florence as Die Fürsten von Florence. And so on.

5. In my En Garde story I neglected to say that the elusive 1st edition with the metal pawns also includes a leatherette(?) board in place of the cards. Very nice. However, some years ago Funagain (I think it was) obtained a number of these "boards" and sold them individually. I bought one, but find that I usually just play with my 2nd edition cards after all!

6. Last, I've owned a few versions of Bohnanza. First the German edition I had to order overseas when it first came out (and what a surprise hit that was!). Later the 1st expansion (the only good one, says me). Eventually the english edition since it incorportated the first expansion into a single nice box, easier for storage. Then I caved and bought the German "jubilee" edition in a tin since I like that packaging and missed the German names of the beans!


4:28 PM  
Blogger Iain said...

Excellent episode. Dave and Mark are a good double act and I learnt a lot, despite being a boardgames newbie of nine years.

8:46 AM  
Blogger daw65 said...

Nice episode. I find myself dealing with this kind of stuff all the time, too. Things like:

- I have 1st edition Vinci. I've never fixed the counter issue. I wish I didn't have to.

- I have German Bohnanza. Folks to whom I've introduced it then go out and get the English edition. Hilarity ensues, both in terms of bean name ("Why is the Green Bean barfing?" they ask.) and in terms of the bean manifest (German expansion used Weinbrandbohne, not Wachsbohne, i.e., Wax Beans).

Other things you could have commented on in this show:

- Jenseits von Theben, a.k.a Thebes. Much better production in Thebes, but they changed the Exhibition rules. I own the former (silly me), and I can't see myself preferring the new Exhibition rules.

- Carcassonne has had a few rules changes that took a very long time to get to the English edition. I think Jay finally adopted the 3rd Kosmos ruleset in the summer of 2008, but it came out when, back in 2000? Earlier?

I suspect that our natural tendency is to simply prefer the version we played first, unless the changes are so phenomenally better that we're drawn to them and away from our prior experiences. But it does make it harder to introduce the games, because you know that if they like the game and want to get it for themselves, they're most likely going to get Thebes, not JvT.

But my biggest issue with all this is how it just muddies game sessions, when you have to spend time deciding which ruleset to use before you actually get to have any fun. Or maybe you have to play the version you're less happy with just because the majority of the players prefer that version. Sometimes it's worse to play a game you like that's been tweaked to be something less, than to play a game that you generally like less, but plays as expected.

11:00 AM  
Blogger ekted said...

If by "production values" you mean art, graphics, layout, and bits that make a game that is easy to play, easy to see what is going on, then I think Small World gets an F. I love Vinci, but I watched some people playing Small World and I was horrified by the chaos of textures and patterns.

1:21 PM  
Blogger collywobbles said...

I agree with Iain, another fine episode. Your podcasts are definitely for the thinking man and extremely enjoyable. You've been so consistent since the beginning.

1:35 AM  

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