Friday, April 21, 2006

During Easter vacation I had an unplanned minor ego trip, reading the personal comments on Boardgamegeek about Britannia. (It helps that I only read down to the 7.x ratings!)

One fellow didn't like the graphics of the new game, which I can see might be "too bright" for some tastes. As a non-artist I think the board is beautiful, even though I liked the sea better before the wave pattern went onto it. The cover art is excellent (I like the darkness of it). I don't pay attention to the figures on the pieces, relying wholly on the symbols (axe, spear, Viking ship, shield), and I'm very glad FFG took my suggestion (I don't recall who originated it on Eurobrit) to use the symbols. FFG's original idea was round pieces with a second color circle along the outside to differentiate side and nation, but they switched to the rounded-corner squares, which I really like. They feel a little bit like plagues or tiles rather than cardboard. I started gaming when every wargame used half inch cardboard counters, but nowadays I almost never use cardboard in my designs (I've collected lots of blocks, chips, glass beads, and figures). (I've learned since writing above that the commenter didn't like the difficulty of identifying the pieces, preferring the nation names on the old. I think the symbols on the new pieces are much easier to see, though I'd like them to have been much larger and the figure smaller.)

Many people remarked that the game is too long, and that is addressed in "Brit Lite", which may someday be published. There is some sense that Britannia is an extraordinary game because it is long, giving it the feeling of the "sweep of history" over centuries. In that respect it's like a mini-Civilization: some people cannot conceive of a game being like Civilization if it isn't at least four hours long (it often goes 8-12).

I think that a shorter Brit must have a combat system that has less standard deviation. About 80% of the players responding to my Web survey ( think the amount of chance in Brit combat is OK (all but one of the rest think there's too much luck). In Brit the dice rolls tend to "even out" (but only tend); in a shorter game this would not be so, hence a different combat system is desirable. My experience playing short Brit scenarios I'm working on confirms that a few good dice rolls can have a major effect in a short game.

I have three combat systems that involve less luck (one uses no dice, but is not luckless). The diceless one is used in Brit Lite. "Advanced Britannia" will probably use the standard system. Other (dice table) systems are used in Dark Ages (TM) and Hellenia (TM).

Someone mentioned an innovative "for it's time" mechanic used (and I think the reference was to the point system). I confess that I've never cared whether a mechanic was innovative or not, as long as it modeled reality well or worked well for the game, but nowadays, as someone pointed out, some people admire games for the mechanics rather than the modeling (reflection of reality). I suppose there are some "Euro" aspects to Brit (no player elimination, usually short downtime between your turns), and I continue to try to think of ways to make this type of game more attractive to the "Euro" crowd.

Lots of Euro methods and characteristics were used in games before ever "Euro" games existed. I think there's an attraction here that is the equivalent to the attraction of designer jeans. Sorry, I NEVER bought anything because it was "designer" clothing and never will. I care about how good it is, and I know that many "designer" garments are identical to non-designer garments except for the label.

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