Oct 102015

By Paco Garcia Jaen

Internationale Spieltage SPIEL is at an end tomorrow and this year’s show has been the best so far. Some very notable things, I have to say.

I am ever so glad that I very early made the decision to ignore American companies and large companies too. I was going to see Daniel Yarrington and Game Salute would be my only American company. In the end I wasn’t able to even return to say hello again. We’ve gone from the 25 interviews we had arranged to over 40 without even thinking about it and we’ve left some 15 behind that we didn’t get the time to return to.

The way we’ve organised ourselves this year was to arrange interviews for the morning and leave the afternoons empty to fill them with interviews with companies we crossed paths. It has worked out very well. I’ve got the chance to stop and talk to people rather than go from hall to hall and stand to stand like a pinball and have discovered some terrific new games.

This is where me not paying attention to the USA and the big ones has paid off. I thought there are enough podcasts and bloggers covering the big guys, so I will try to find out the small guys.

Hall 7 at Spiel is where it all happens. A fairly dingy and not very well known hall with a megaton of small tiny companies.

My decision to cover just European or Far East games is one I will probably go with again.

NSKN Games​ deserves quite a mention – and this has nothing to do with them being friends of mine – for Simurgh and Mistfall. You really should look at both very closely. In fact, if you like the Pathfinder card game, *please* look at Mistfall.

The Polish Publishing League also has come up with some truly stunning games. Heroes, from Lion Games is a personal favourite of mine. I have done the podcast review and the unboxing video. Take a look at it and consider buying it. I am still excited about that game and can’t wait to play it again.

Waste Knights also should get your attention. Those guys are onto something!

And they have a game about Erotica that’s really tasteful! Yes, there is nudity and sex all over the game, but it’s that, erotic, not pornographic. They have looked into body representation, kept a language that is LBGTQ friendly (though the photos are heteronormative) and managed to introduce the game into sex shops, since standar game shops didn’t want to stock the game (somewhat makes sense that…).

Arctic Union again surprises. Black Hat has managed to merge strategy and trick making games masterfully. Timo Multamaki has a very strange mind, but it works… by god it works!

TBD – Taiwan Board Game Design – also had some great titles. I got Burano, Castle Crush and Runes & Ruins and had to leave behind another four games, one of them about kittens (yes… a game about kittens) that looked as cute as it could be expected.

MODIPHIUS​ releasign the news of the Kung-Fu Panda game came as a very nice blow. A 100% pleasant surprise that made everyone around genuinely happy.

Also a great surprise – one of the good surprises – to see the Cubicle 7 Entertainment​ crew there with a stand. Although they had reservations about the RPG side of things, they have done really well too, which I suppose means German geeks are very adaptable and play all sorts so don’t mind buying RPGs. And I managed to buy my copy of the second edition of the Dr Who card game so I can shoot the Dice & Slice episode with the game. WHOOHOO!!!

Totally amazing too to find out that Cédrick Chaboussit​ can speak Spanish, so we interviewed him twice, once in English and once in Spanish about Discoveries: The Journals of Lewis & Clarke. Can’t wait to crack that game open at La Base Secreta Café​. Our clients are going to love that one!

Tomorrow a few more interviews but not many. We’ll finish with an interview with Iello, the only sizeable company I will pay attention to this trip. Yes, I said I wouldn’t, but they’ve always been very good to me and I have to say I like Mathieu Bonin a lot. He’s a super guy who knows his games very well and is always courteous, attentive and very, very friendly.

After that… home. And sleep with a proper pillow. Because although Germany does a lot of things very well, they make the worst pillows on the planet.

And next year more!

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Oct 092015

kung_fu_panda_game_iconBy Paco Garcia Jaen

I like Modiphius. Since ever. I have bought as many of their products as I could, I have backed some of their Kickstarters when I had money, had them in podcasts, recorded an episode of Dice & Slice and had it edited really fast just to show their Thunderbirds game before the Kickstarter and even bought their whole range of Cthulhu miniatures even though, truth be told, I have little interest in miniatures that don’t come with a board game.

Because I like them.

And tonight, as well as announcing some amazing stuff to do with the Mutant Chronicles franchise, they unveiled that they’ve got the Kung-Fu Panda license to do a board game.

That is amazing. At many levels.

Firstly the game will feature a real-time dice-throwing mechanic. Thank goodness, there will also be a way to stop the play at some point so people can gather their thoughts. And it’ll be cooperative. Although I don’t like real time dice throwing games, this pause element does make me feel a lot better.

When I offered to record another episode of Dice & Slice to show the game, I was told it will have to be when they have the components well made, as Dreamworks would only want to show the best possible quality.

Now that tells me that this game, whatever it contains, will have to be *really* huge quality. That makes it more exciting.

Also this is a very big break for the company. Although Thunderbirds no doubt was a tremendous step up, Kung-Fu Panda is a much more modern and bigger license and the pressure to deliver something insanely amazing is on. Basically, Modiphius can’t afford to create something mediocre.

And they won’t. They haven’t created anything remotely mediocre yet and thus I have no reason to even consider them starting now. Quite the opposite.

And throughout this, Chris and his team have remained humble about it all. Approachable as ever and just as good fun to be around as always.

I truly can’t express how excited I am about this game and about the company. A small company that, through great work and effort has managed to hit it very, very big and get a chance to show the world that big franchises can have great board games too.

For the record, I have no ties with Modiphius. I can say this because I want to and not because I owe them anything. I have never got a review game from them, they have never paid me for advertising or for publishing anything and there is no commercial interest between Modiphius and myself.

I am saying these things because I want to. And because they deserve the praise.

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Oct 092015

By Paco Garcia Jaen

Since I started my website, I have been very blessed by making a lot of friends in the game world and by getting some review copies of games (mostly board games). It is a privilege I don’t take lightly and I appreciate more than most people know.

Today something “funny” happened to me whilst at Spiel. Actually there were many things but this one was unpleasant and required some retort from me. Those of you who know me just a bit know that a retort from me is an honest and rather brutal answer.

Because I am not interested in bringing any damage to the company that was the source of my discontent, I will not mention names. I will not do it in private either.

This situation came after an interview. Martin and I had waited for a bit to do this interview and eventually we got there. Great because the game looked impressive. A very helpful demo person showed the game and went through the 10 minutes interview. Great!

“What is your policy regarding review copies of your games” I asked the manager “Do you operate in any way like that?”.

“No. Sorry” said the man without hesitation “Games cost a lot to make and we can’t just give them away”.

“OK” I replied “That’s fair enough. I’d like to buy a copy, please” and I paid the money.

“When are you writing the review?” he asked

“Oh, the interview will come out between November and January. I will email to let you know when” I said

“No, I mean the review of the game” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll be reviewing it” I said raising an eyebrow.

“I thought you were a reviewer”

“I am, and I review games.” I said with what I suspect was more than just a bit of exasperation in my voice “but first and foremost I review games that are given to me for review. Then I review games that are sold to me at a lower price for review. Then I review whatever else I like, when I like and if I like.”

“I thought you’d write a review” he said

“It’s unlikely. The games I review the least are those from companies that I try to help with free interviews and take me for granted when I buy their games” I said as I turned to leave.

Yes… I turned to leave and left. I have no time for this sort of behaviour.

You see, I very rarely ask for anything. Very, very rarely. And when something’s given, I do my best to make sure it gets a lot of coverage and some games are sold. I know for a fact that some people have bought games after I’ve written or podcasted reviews, and I know my videos, although they’re not as watched as other reviewers, do get to a fair number of people and an average of 5 games are sold per video I publish. Considering I am not very big, it’s not a bad number.

I have no problems doing things for free for people. My podcasts are totally free – I have never ever charged anyone for a review and only a couple of people have ever paid money to be advertised in them. My reviews are totally free too – I have never ever ever asked (or ever will ask) for money to write a review.Except the people who paid to be featured in Dice & Slice, everyone else has been for free and I haven’t even asked for anything in return.


So when someone takes for granted that I will write a review of their game after I did an interview that will take me another 3 hours of to finish (downloading, editing, rendering, publishing) it really really pisses me off.

A reviewer’s time is not free. It comes at a cost and even though this might be our hobby, it is not yours. Yours as publisher is a business. If the exposure a blogger or vlogger is going to give you is not large enough to justify the review copy of the game, fine; it happens.

But don’t think *for a second* that any reviewer out there owes you anything when we buy your game. Because we don’t.

You want me to ensure I write the review of the game and do it the whole treatment with video and everything, you have to do something about it. Demand it when I just gave you 40€ certainly is no the way.

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Oct 072015

First day at Spiel and already a very busy one. This morning managed to get on time to the press conference, which is great although a bit useless as I can’t understand much of what they say. Still, it’s a great atmosphere.
The press preview event is great. Saw a ton of new games and arranged four more interviews with small companies.

Managed to meet Rick Schrand​, who happens to be as nice in real life as he is in Facebook, and had a very impressive selection of games from Eagle Gryphon games.

Found Meow Godthing​ too, which is pretty amazing as yesterday we were late at the hotel and didn’t get to have dinner together.

Agnieszka Emilia Kopera​ and Andrei Novac​ booth for NSKN Games looks fantastic and I reckon the two immense piles of games they have on display won’t last until Sunday. Or even Saturday.

Also found Daniel Yarrington​ and tried to get an interview, though both he and his wife were already buried beneath tons of boxes of games that arrived too late and the time for us to depart came before they could spare any time for us. Still… four more days to go, so this time they won’t escape!

Sandcastles was doing well at the press preview too, so Andrew Harman​ and Jenn can be super proud.
Lovely surprise to see Dominic McDowall​ and Jonny Hodgson​ with a booth here for Cubicle 7 Entertainment​ too! Dom was his cheery self (can’t think when I have seen him without smiling) and Jonny was looking worried as usual (because he worries until everything is going well… I’d probably worry too). By the end of the show they probably won’t have books left. It tends to happen.

I am so glad of the decision I made of concentrating this year on smaller companies from Europe and the Far East. Ive seen so many super cool stuff already coming from Japan, and the booths of Arctic Union and Polish Games Association have some incredible stuff there.

So sorry if I am not going to cover the big games and big companies this year, but there are plenty of other websites, podcasts and videos that will. I am going to do the weird thing and try to help the small designer.
More news to come tomorrow!

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Aug 112015

triggerwarning By Paco Garcia Jaen

We’ve heard a lot about the need and demand of trigger warnings in games and gaming environments, let it be conventions, clubs, social media groups or simply around the table.

I am all up for trigger warnings. I have no idea if someone reading or hearing about homophobic actions, racial or sexual assault… whatever, will feel triggered and I can’t see a problem with saying “hey, we’re going to cover some sensitive and graphic content. If you feel uncomfortable, say it now”.

I do have a problem with “hey, I feel uncomfortable/offended; let’s stop the whole thing for everyone else”.

Sorry. No. I feel and understand you have a trauma (I have some traumas too), but that doesn’t mean everyone should be shielded from it like you need to be. And note how I say “need to be”. I understand the need and I think protection should be provided. It must be provided.

I don’t feel that person should just put up with the discomfort and get screwed. And this is where I think some people are going wrong. They think it’s an all or nothing sort of situation where either everyone puts up with the offensive/hurtful behaviour or no one does.

Emotional response is defined as “a reaction to a particular intrapsychic feeling or feelings, accompanied by physiologic changes that may or may not be outwardly manifested but that motivate or precipitate some action or behavioural response.”

When someone around the table, or at a convention or anywhere else, expresses an emotional response, ignoring it or demanding that person puts up with that impact (more often than not damaging) because you want to is the wrong decision to make. Very wrong.

If your game includes rape, paedophilia , sexism, racism or any other “ism” and people feel uncomfortable, demanding they continue playing, or avoiding doing something to minimise that discomfort, only makes you a douche. Seriously.

If you are running a game, the safety of your players is in *your* hands. It’s your responsibility to make as sure as you can that your players have a great time and that no noxious behaviour takes place around your table. And that includes dealing with behaviour that brings an emotional response or offence.

The same goes when you write a book or an adventure. Your work could trigger responses and it is your responsibility to find a way to tell people the contents can be difficult or triggering so they can make an informed choice and not read your work if they feel it’s unsafe.

And the thing is that not every emotional response can be helped. Not by you, not by anyone. And there are lots and lots of people out there who walk through life trying to avoid certain topics because the emotional response they get is uncontrollable and very damaging.

And thus the question I always ask people is: Why wouldn’t you want to warn people that what you write/design might be painful to read?

I don’t get it.

Of course helping the person deal with that emotional response is the best approach. But sometimes we can’t help. So although pandering to the emotional response completely is not the best solution, ignoring it is certainly the worst possible solution. In fact that is not a solution at all.

Point to remember: Just because you don’t consider it traumatic or doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean it won’t affect anyone else. And if anyone says it’s affecting them, pay attention. People do not say these things for no reason.

Let’s differentiate two things here, though: emotional response vs. offence.

With emotional response we are talking about the psychological response with some physical manifestations (visible or otherwise) when we are exposed to something. The more traumatic the “thing” is, the more acute the response will be.

Offence, on the other hand, is “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself. “

There are many kinds of offence. Offending someone by using racial, sexual or gender stereotypes or jokes is always wrong. Those are always going to bring some sort of emotional response attached and with good reason.

Also they are a very cheap shot that highlights only how dim-witted the offender is.

And I know people hate hate hate to be told this, but check your privilege. If someone is offended about something, find out why and stop saying “but it doesn’t offend me”. Just because it doesn’t offend you, doesn’t mean it’s not offensive.

That is when the problems truly occur around a table, or writing your game or adventure. It’s not just when you cause offence, but when you cause harm through offence. And repeat offence does cause harm, make no mistake.

And please, do not even think about coming to me with “if it is in the mind is not pain”. Fuck that shit.

It is very true that a lot of people are demanding not to be offended these days and pandering to that attitude is also pernicious. The issue is to make sure the offence is directed at something, not someone. And pondering if the offence was necessary or you’re just being an asshole. Because offending people for the sake of offending them makes you an asshole.

And yes, I think you should include a trigger warning and let people know they are likely to find content they might find offensive. There is no harm in that whatsoever. Then people can decide if they want to join your game, or read your book, or not.

So the point is this: do you want people sitting around your table having a good time? Do you want people reading your book or playing your game/adventure getting fond memories for the rest of their lives?

If your answer is “yes”, then it is your responsibility to make sure they *know* what they’re getting themselves into.

As a creator, you are free and entitled to create anything you want. Offensive, hurtful… whatever. You want to do it? Go ahead and do it.

But tell people! Just let them know!

And of course be prepared to be criticised for doing it. But that’s for another article.

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Aug 102015


By Paco Garcia Jaen

I am a firm believer in Paying It Forward. I have been running my website, podcasts and videos largely following that principle and I intend to continue doing so for as long as I can afford it. If you don’t know what Paying It Forward entails, it basically means that, instead of repaying a favour to the person who did you the favour, you repay to another three people instead.

Without asking for anything in return. That’s pretty key.

Since I started my website, I have tried to do more deeds to people than the deeds I have received. I have never asked for anything in return and I very rarely ask for review games. When a game is given to me, I do the unboxing videos and/or the podcast review and/or the written review. Sometimes it takes me a while, I admit, but every game gets the deserved mention.

I do the same for most of the games I buy, including Kickstarters. And many, many times I have backed Kickstarter and other projects just because I want to pay it forward for someone else. And oftentimes I buy products and do reviews or any promotion just because I like the people and they are friends.

So I’d like La Base Secreta to work on similar basis.

The cafe will hopefully become hive for gamers to come and play games, so I want to use that to help promote games that could have it difficult to find a distributor or publisher in Spain.

I want to turn the cafe into the centre where distributors and publishers big and small can come to try games and decide if they want to publish it in Spain. I am going to make sure that we keep a very detailed and up-to-date inventory of both board games and role playing games and make it freely available for anyone to read and play at the cafe any time and every time they want.

And I will continue to tweet, talk about it in Facebook and Google + and do the reviews, both written, podcast and videos for every single game we will have at the cafe.

And I want nothing in return.

And of course I will benefit too. Hopefully that’ll bring people to my cafe and hopefully they will buy drinks and food that will keep the business going. But they won’t have to buy anything.

And I know a lot of people who’ll say I’m mad. I don’t care.

Because I have faith in both the gaming community and because I believe is the right thing to do.

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