Games can be defined in a lot of different ways. They can come in different styles, from American take-that to Eurogames, from party games to abstracts. They can can in different fictional genres, from science-fiction to history, and in different mechanical genres, from worker placement to auctions. Finally, games can also be parts of different mediums, primarily including board games, card games, and dice games.
Gaming mediums are particularly interesting because they seem to encourage conversions. Board games become card games or dice games, and vice-versa. This trend seems to have been growing in the last few years, as Intellectual Property has become a byword of the eurogame community. Alea is currently be the poster child of IP conversions, with Broom Service (2015), Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (2016), and Broom Service: The Card Game (2016) all being conversions of this sort. The last is particularly notable, since Broom Service: The Card Game began life as Witch’s Brew (2008) … a card game!
So are medium conversions good or bad?
Too frequently they result in a game that’s a pale shadow of its originator. I know I’ve played Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings (2005), but I barely remember it, while Shadows Over Camelot: The Card Game (2012) and Bang! The Dice Game (2013) were more interesting, but in no way overshadowed the original. But, in some cases you get games that are quite exciting. San Juan (2004) is obviously the vest example of a game that managed to massively innovate its predecessor, creating something that was as good, in its own way.
This week I’m going to take a brief look at three games that were converted to new sorts of dice and card games: one of the newest entrants to the field and two that I think really worked.
It was a really great season for board games. I played perhaps a few less games that were new-to-me than usual, but the recurring theme was that they were all good or better. OK, I played Exploding Kittens near the end-of-the-year because Christmas family gatherings … but not even that could bring down what was a season of fine games!
Pandemic Legacy — Season 1 (2015). Any discussion of the new Pandemic variant should begin with my belief that Pandemic itself is a great game. I count it as one of the three most influential and important co-op games. Arkham Horror (1987) mostly invented the genre and Lord of the Rings (2000) reinvented it for the modern day. However, it was Pandemic (2007) that made the genre accessible. It’s also a near pitch-perfect design with huge piles of difficulty and chaos, and its great replayability.
In November, I took a look at a smallest of mini-genres: what I call the Role Civilization genre, which originated with San Juan and which also grew to include games such as Glory for Rome and Eminent Domain. My previous articles covered the origins of the field in role selection and those three games. In this latest article, I’ll be looking at the final major entry in the category, Roll for the Galaxy, discussing how it simultaneously invented and reinvented the field.
The Shared History of San Juan and Roll for the Galaxy: 2002-2007
Puerto Rico (2002) was the game that brought role selection to the field of serious, dense eurogames. It ruled the gaming table for a few years and was considered the top game in the field. Alea production manager Stefan Brück asked Puerto Rico designer Andreas Seyfarth for a card version of the game, and the result was San Juan (2003), which kicked off the whole role civilization subgenre.
A few weeks ago I kicked off an investigation of a small genre of games that I call “role civilization” games. These are “role selection” card games that were inspired by San Juan. My initial article defined the genre through four mechanics that all debuted in San Juan: phase (role) selection; card building; multipurpose cards; and card economies.
This week I’m going to continue my look at the genre by seeing how it’s evolved since the advent of San Juan and by investigating two Imperial successors to the game.
A History of Role Civilization: 2004-Present
Andreas Seyfarth’s San Juan (2004) could have dramatically changed the board gaming field. Not only did it make the very popular mechanics of Puerto Rico (2002) more accessible, but it also introduced a new style of dense filler that played quickly in a short period of time while still allowing for real strategic decisions. Unfortunately, San Juan was held back by the fact that Alea games tend to be somewhat underproduced and until very recently didn’t get supplements. The best San Juan ever managed was a few mini-supplements in Treasure Chest (2009), one of which reappeared in the second edition San Juan (2014).
This is my quarterly listing of games that I played for the first time ever. As usual, I’m offering my own thoughts on these game, not a more general assessment of whether they’re good or not. If you like euros more than American games; if you prefer things on the casual-to-medium side of the spectrum; and if you don’t mind controlling some randomness, you might agree.
As you can see, I’ve labeled this the Season of Feld. It’s not that there were a lot of Stefan Feld games out this quarter; it’s that Christmas was just past, and I got Feld for Christmas. So, I got an opportunity to try out some older Feld games that I’d missed … and La Isla finally showed up in local stores too. Mind you, my Great games for the year were Feldless (but I liked the Feld I got).
Roll for the Galaxy (2014). While we first played this dice-game variant of Race for the Galaxy (2007), one of my friends asked, “Which is better, card play or dice play?” My answer was that dice games tend to be more viscerally exciting (when done well), while card games tend to allow for more depth. That suggests that a dice game could raise itself up to the next level if it combined the raw excitement of dice rolling with the depth of a game with more components … and Roll for the Galaxy is that game.