Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Punishment Game Review - The Board Game Geek Game

[Usually, there would be a picture here. However, when I went to get one, the publisher's website was down for maintenance. Again.]

My group's punishment week consisted of two games that sucked. The first was Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, which wins the award for the stupidest name in the last five reviews (I'm sure there are names dumber than that, which I could probably find if I looked in my archives, but I can't be bothered). The second was the eyesore called The Board Game Geek Game.

First off, I know why it was done, but the name bothers me. Not as much as Escape from the Aliens Who Want To Eat You on a Spaceship in Outer Space, but it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. I suppose there were not a lot of options for the title, and it could have been worse. The Board Game Geek Board Game would be worse, for example. Or The Board Game Geek Game for Geeks. Or The Geeky Game for Board Gamers Who Escape From Board Game Geek... dot com.

But the name is the least of the problems with this game (note that, unlike the last title, which I repeated repeatedly merely to emphasize its silliness, this time I intend to abbreviate or avoid the title whenever possible). Possibly the biggest detractor for The BGG Game is how much it hurts your eyes to look at the box. The graphic designer for this game obviously wanted to cram the maximum number of games onto every square inch of the box and the board, and wound up with a hodge podge of visual imagery that resembles nothing so much as a pile of vomit that came out of your eyes.

But a redundant name and the visual cacophony of the board and box don't have to instantly indicate a horrible game. And in all fairness, the game that you play with this mess is more or less sound. It's not terribly interesting, and the theme (which, again, probably could not be helped) is about as fascinating as categorizing the spice cabinet, but it works OK, if you like the kinds of games that tend to come with wooden cubes representing produce.

Each turn, players will represent publishers selling games, and then gamers buying those games. You'll take turns placing your games in stores, and then send your shoppers out to procure games that your competitors put in stores. You'll give points to your opponents if you buy their games, but you can also earn big points if you collect the right sets, so you'll be buying games even if they score for the other guys. This is actually a pretty clever mechanic, since you can earn almost as much money selling games as scoring sets.

There's also a good amount of tactical placement, planning and strategy. When you send your shoppers out into the market, you can pay a little to rearrange them in order to procure just the games you want. If you work hard at getting the cheaper games, you'll out-score your opponents when you finish sets, but you can also score big by making your high-dollar games more attractive to the consumers. If this sounds like the kind of business planning you might find in a conference room meeting with stale coffee and dry donuts, that's because it is. It's good practice for the mental adding machine, but it's not much more interesting than giving a presentation on retail returns over the Labor Day weekend.

I can't fault the actual game play in The BGG Game, because it works. What I can fault, however, is how boring it is to play. These mechanics could have been dusted off half a dozen other games and cobbled together with wood glue and rubber bands. There's nothing new here, nothing innovative, and nothing particularly interesting. You'll play six rounds of selling and buying, then check to see who has the best collections. This is followed by a few minutes of calculator-inducing math, and then promptly sweeping everything into the box to make it go away.

When the creators of the world's most popular board game site decided to make a game, they probably hoped it would be a huge hit. Hell, nobody creates a game and says, 'Man, I hope in a few years to have enough copies of this game in my garage that I'll give it away as door prizes!' But that's exactly what happened, because it turns out mixing a sub-average game with graphics that will make you bleed from the eye sockets is the recipe for a game that people don't want very badly. When you add in a theme that combines the worst parts of droning business meetings and online grocery shopping, you wind up with a U-Stor-It closet full to the roof with unwanted cardboard.

It's kind of a shame that with all the resources available, the result was such a mediocre game. Some of the world's most prolific and brilliant game designers regularly visit Board Game Geek, and it would seem like if anyone had access to the best and brightest, it would be the BGG guys. I have to wonder if the artist they hired was a volunteer, because he never would have made it in any studio where I ever worked. I pretty much have to excuse the name and the theme, regardless of how little I might like them, but the repetitive play and horrible art are fair game.

I'll tell you one thing, though. Having played a game based on a website, and having seen that it's possible (even if it's not a good idea), I'm considering making the Drake's Flames Board Game. In this game, you'll take the role of a foul-mouthed poser with a crappy day job who makes jokes about hookers with cerebral palsy and then pretends to be much cooler than he really is. You'll pretend to be a total industry insider who knows a lot about games, when you're really just a nerd who can tell a dick joke.

I'll probably sell about seven copies, and wind up sticking the other 993 in my attic.


3-6 players

The game play works, even if it is boring

Rehashed game mechanics
Art like a fork in the retina

If you want a copy of The Board Game Geek Board Game for Geeks, just show up at a convention. They'll give you one.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your conclusions, but for the record, this game WAS designed by a name designer, Richard Breese. Now he's never designed a game that I enjoy, but he clearly does have a following.

I wonder if they were really hoping to create a game or a collectible here. I'm one of those whose avatar is on the box, yet I felt no desire to purchase the game. I'm guessing I wasn't alone in this since The BGG Game WAS given away to many of the attendees at BGG Con this year.

Anonymous said...

good time to laugh at the idiots running BGG?

we going to get rich on this one!

one billion hits a day - gonna sell a million copies .... easy.

Can't even give it away!

Anonymous said...

Id rather wax my sack than try and play this again. Worst game ever - including Monopoly!