Cardboard Children: Of Parpellimonies…

By Robert Florence on August 13th, 2011 at 4:20 pm.


Hello youse.

Right, I’ve had it. I’ve had it with people in the comments section of this column saying this thing – “Carcassonne is a great gateway game”. Or saying something like “Play Carcassonne with them!” Or saying “Try them with something like Carcassonne first!” Or even just saying “Carcassonne”.

No offence to any of you. Thanks for contributing.

But in my “be positive about everything” approach, I don’t often get the opportunity to be negative about stuff. Today, I am going to be negative about one of the games that people suggest as a good introduction to “proper board gaming”.

And then I’ll steer you all right.

PLAY CARCASSONNE WITH THEM

Don’t.

Just don’t.

Most people don’t play board games because they have a perception that board games are boring. To bring those people on board, the last thing you want to do is sit them down with fucking Carcassonne. This dry, static game has somehow been pushed as a great gateway game for new players. Sure, it’s easy to learn – how could it not be? You lay a tile and then your opponent lays a tile and then you lay a tile and then your opponent lays a tile and then maybe MAYBE maybe MAYBE if you’re lucky you get to place a horrible wee wooden man on a tile. And then you sigh. And look at the clock.

And then you LIFT OFF.

And you’re soaring. Bang! Through the ceiling. Out into the Glasgow sky. Through the rain, and UP! UP! UP! Hey, there’s a passenger plane setting off to Spain!

ON THE PASSENGER PLANE

Sara, 19 years old. On her LAST family holiday to Spain. She lost her virginity a week ago. A bit late, sure, but she wanted to wait until it mattered. And it mattered. But Stuart is at home, and she’s being dragged out to fucking Spain again. The same holiday they’ve had for the last seven years. This. Would. Be. The. Last.

She looks out of the window to her right. A man flies by, rocketing upwards, cardboard tiles tumbling from his hand. One tile sticks to the outside of the window. It shows some green grass, and a brown road snaking through it. She frowns. What is this?

She taps on the window. Tap-tap.

The tile comes loose, and swoops into the plane’s engine.

INSIDE THE ENGINE

What people don’t realise is this – planes can’t fly.

Inside plane engines, there are tiny little people called “Parpellimonies”. These are little magical creatures, born from the “weeping dust” that billows around grieving families when someone dies. Scientists from Germany found a way to attract Parpellimonies into metal canisters, by using tiny little erotic illustrations. Once inside, the Parpellimonies panic, and their distress causes the containing vessel to levitate. That’s how planes were invented.

So, inside this particular engine, a tiny Parpellimony was frantic about being taken from his family, and was levitating hundreds of people all the way to Spain. A cardboard tile fired into the engine at precisely 17,000 mph. It severed the Parpellimony’s head from its neck. Sadly, because this was a lone Parpellimony (airline cost-cutting) there were no family-members around to grieve for its passing, and so no new “weeping dust” was produced. Thus, no new Parpellimonies.

The levitation effect was gone.

ON THE PASSENGER PLANE

Sara was thinking about Stuart’s tender touch when all the lights went out.

Now, you might be asking why the lights went out when the levitation effect ended. I’ll explain. Lighting aboard passenger planes is “sympathetic lighting” created by tiny atom-sized creatures called “Humberers”. Humberers exist on the same telepathic level as Parpellimonies, so when a void appears in the mind-frame, Humberers go into what spiritualists call a “Humber-sulk”. When a Humberer Humber-sulks, its light-emitting eyes are forced shut, much like a child when it tantrums. That’s why all the lights went out.

The plane, completely without flight now, started to hurtle towards the ground. Now, let me state this to you right now – not one person on that flight, as it plummeted to a fiery doom, thought to themselves – “I wish I had played more Carcassonne.”

Let’s take a look at the thoughts of these unfortunate travellers.

“Why didn’t I tell him I loved him?”

“I should have really shagged more women.”

“I wonder if Duke Nukem: Forever will EVER come out! Oh hang on, it did. Never mind.”

“Oh God. How will they recognise me from my teeth, when I have NO TEETH?”

“I wonder if Diablo III will be any good. Oh well.”

“I should have played more Space Hulk.”

WAIT! STOP!

Okay, there’s a board game reference! Someone IS actually thinking about a board game as they plunge headfirst into the jaws of the Deathgobbler. But it’s not Carcassonne. Weird!

Why wouldn’t it be Carcassonne? Why wouldn’t it be some boring as fuck tile placement thing that looks dog ugly and has you adding things up at the end while yawning? Why not that?

And you! Sit the fuck DOWN!

You’re about to tell me that you love Carcassonne, aren’t you? Well, to you I say THIS, sir! You do NOT love Carcassonne! You do NOT love that game, sir! You love sitting with your loved ones and doing something at a table, sir! That is what you love! You love sitting with a glass of wine, with your family or friends around you, as you DO SOMETHING ON A TABLE. TOGETHER. That is all, sir! SIT DOWN!

Not one person on that passenger plane to Spain is thinking about Carcassonne as they die. But one person, admittedly a bit of a shut-in, is thinking about Space Hulk. SPACE HULK.

Now, I am not going to tell you that the perfect introductory board game for your cute new boyfriend or girlfriend is Space Hulk. Don’t go explaining Overwatch on a first date, for fuck’s sake. But the point I’m making here is that THE BEST INTRODUCTORY BOARD GAME IS ONE THAT RISES OFF THE TABLE.

What do I mean by that?

RISING OFF THE TABLE

Like Frankenstein, you know?

“It’s ALIIIIIIVE!”

People who think they hate board games have never played a game that sent them home afterwards THINKING about what just happened. They haven’t been lying in their beds, staring at the ceiling, going over that game and all the cool things that happened in it. Smiling in the dark.

You try it. You. You who recommends Carcassonne. You try it. You try lying in the dark thinking about how you should have laid down that road and try to FUCKING CARE. That shit cray.

Try to stand in a lift, smiling about the time you completed a cloister. GO! Try it. That shit cray.

That shit cray.

If you want to convert someone to board games, if you want to change their mind, you need to fill that mind with good stuff. You need to feed them some stuff that comes alive when they’re away from the table. It has to be something that is more than “something to do”. It has to be something they’re immersed in, something that feels real. Something that rises UP! Like a Mall of Horror or a Claustrophobia.

And here – finally – is my list of THREE PERFECT INTRODUCTORY GAMES

1. Cosmic Encounter – Possibly the greatest game of all time. This is easy to learn, and pushes any new player straight into an understanding of the greatest base mechanic in board gaming – “Here are the rules. And here’s how we break them.” And rise off the table? DAMN, GIRLFRIEND. This game is laugh a minute stuff, with tempers flaring every five laughs. And different EVERY TIME YOU PLAY. It’s the essential first-name-on-the-teamsheet of board gaming.
2. Survive! – I’ve spoken about Survive on this very site in the past. A simple, vicious, exciting game of opponent screwage. Sometimes the best way to hook a new player into board games is to make them care that you just FUCKED THEM UP by, for example, throwing them down a sea monster’s throat.
3. Magical Athlete – This amazing Japanese game is similar to Cosmic Encounter. It’s a roll and move race game, with a host of crazy characters. You draft a team of these characters at the start of the game, and each character breaks the game’s rules in some way. For example, the Merchant, instead of rolling for movement, can use his power to switch places with any other character in the race. And the Centaur can kick a character back one space whenever it overtakes. And the Assassin can kill a character after the draft. And all these powers work with each other in weird ways, making races unpredictable and hilarious and wonderful.

And I think that’s enough. That’s plenty. You’ll notice that two of these games are based around rulesets that are changed and fucked around with – people who view board games as boring think that they are these rule-heavy strict dull things. Show them some games don’t take THEMSELVES seriously, and you’re onto a winner.

And I could change my mind on this list next week – my main point is that Carcassonne would NEVER be on any of these lists. Never. It’s a Parpellimony-killing Humber-sulker of a game, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of holidaymakers.

JACK VASEL MEMORIAL FUND

I don’t take any money for writing this column, and never will.

But here’s the thing. If you like it, or if it’s got you into board games in the past, or if you just fancy me a bit – here’s how you can reward me for my work and my time.

Please watch this:

I’ve told you about Tom Vasel before. He’s a great guy. And now he’s a great guy doing a great thing. You can read all about it at here.

If anyone out there enjoys anything I ever write here, and I know it’s unlikely, please consider dropping a little bit of cash into that fund. My usual daily rate is 600 quid, although my agent will push for more.

But seriously – it would make me very happy indeed if you would occasionally donate a little. The world needs less weeping dust.

Next week: Call of Cthulhu

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165 Comments »

  1. HybridHalo says:

    Great Article, Can’t wait for the Call of Cthulu – I’ve recently taken a group of newbie (first time) investigators through their first small brush with gibbering superscience. Was fantastic.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Bought Arkham Horror today and played it when we got home.

      Bloody hell, it’s a bit comlicated. And hard. But I loved the feel of it.

      We’re going to play it again tomorrow and try not to forget half the rules this time. Maybe it’d be easier if we were playing with someone who knew it.

      EDIT: Though there’s already been an Arkham Horror article, so presumably next weeks will be a different Call of Cthulu game.

    • President Weasel says:

      Call of Cthulu is the pen and paper RPG equivalent of Arkham Horror, and is much better, mainly because you don’t spend all the time you’re playing it thinking “bah, I could be playing Call of Cthulu instead of this”.

  2. Teddy Leach says:

    So 19 is late?

    • johnpeat says:

      For Glasgow, it’s time to starting planning Grandparenthood…

    • Teddy Leach says:

      That’s a very good point.

    • Aerothorn says:

      Not just for Glasgow – according to the CDC, 80% of American males/ 75% of females have lost their virginity by 19 (and I believe about half have by 15!).

    • TheGameSquid says:

      Time to do some catching up then…

    • gwathdring says:

      Half by 15? That’s not correct. The CDC says that 46% of US high-school students claim to have had any form of intercourse at any point during high school. Other polls and sources tend to estimate significantly lower than this, but are less reliable. Of course there are the fringe polls that try to pretend teen-sex almost doesn’t exist or that pretty much every teenager in the world has sex in high school, but let’s pretend those don’t exist.

      More CDC findings:

      34% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these

      39% did not use a condom the last time they had sex
      77% did not use birth control pills or Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sex

      14% had had sex with four or more people during their life

      91% did not use a condom, birth control pills , or Depo-Provera. (Of course, that still doesn’t rule out all birth control methods …. why didn’t they just ask THAT?)

      Also interesting: teen sexual behaviors have been dropping in the US since 1991, and birth control use rising (if slowly). However, education about sex is roughly the same as in 1991, despite going up for a bit in the late-90s. 13% of US students are not taught about AIDS and STD infections in school. Which doesn’t sound bad … but that’s one in every eight kids not understanding STD risks in America.

    • CMaster says:

      It’s also worth point out that surveys about sex are notoriously inaccurate. Not that they aren’t useful, but in anything requiring self-reporting, people lie (sometimes through mis-remembering) and with sex-based surveys that only gets worse.

    • gwathdring says:

      Interesting. More CDC factoids: Among American men 15-44, 10% are virgins (no vaginal, anal or oral sex). Among women, 8% are virgins. 18%/14% respectively had two+ partners in the 12 months before being polled.

      @CMaster:
      This is true. However, when studies and surveys tend to agree, you can still get a nice picture of trends. I agree they aren’t especially accurate in determining current levels of sexual activity, but they are great for showing sexual trends. Also, studies seem to suggest that people are relatively honest in self-report anonymous surveys when there is no surveyor presiding. It’s difficult to prove, though, and it’s one of the major obstacles to behavioral and psychological research. How do you get a large reliable sample size about sensitive information?

    • gwathdring says:

      I’d say, with sexual behaviors, that the pressures tend to run in both directions. There are social forces pushing for virginity and purity and social forces pushing for sexual conquest and availability. This creates a lot of confusion, and a lot of differing pressures on different individuals and all of those forces combined with various levels of honesty in participants probably balance out reasonably well.

      Teenagers and college students tend to vastly overestimate the percentage of their peers who have had sexual partners or consumed alcohol. My theory is that this relates to people at both the extremes of abstinence and the extremes of promiscuity being the most socially obvious–as targets of ridicule, as targets of admiration, and as self-promoters. Both ends of the spectrum are revered and derided, which I think helps to balance out these sorts of surveys. I completely agree that the numbers themselves aren’t especially accurate, but the pressures and biases change at various ages and points in history so asking a wide variety of people ages 15-44 about their sexual behaviors across their entire lifetime seems fairly reliable even if you can’t trust the resolution on the numbers.

      Of course, remembering exactly when you and your high school date first had sex is difficult if you happen to be at the 30-year-old end of 15-44 when approached for the survey …
      Social sciences are awesome!

    • Grape says:

      Half by 15? That’s not correct. The CDC says that 46% of US high-school students claim to have had any form of intercourse at any point during high school. Other polls and sources tend to estimate significantly lower than this, but are less reliable. Of course there are the fringe polls that try to pretend teen-sex almost doesn’t exist or that pretty much every teenager in the world has sex in high school, but let’s pretend those don’t exist.
      More CDC findings:
      34% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these
      39% did not use a condom the last time they had sex
      77% did not use birth control pills or Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sex
      14% had had sex with four or more people during their life
      91% did not use a condom, birth control pills , or Depo-Provera. (Of course, that still doesn’t rule out all birth control methods …. why didn’t they just ask THAT?)
      Also interesting: teen sexual behaviors have been dropping in the US since 1991, and birth control use rising (if slowly). However, education about sex is roughly the same as in 1991, despite going up for a bit in the late-90s. 13% of US students are not taught about AIDS and STD infections in school. Which doesn’t sound bad … but that’s one in every eight kids not understanding STD risks in America.

      Wow. That sounds just awful. Sure, it’s the US – With the attitudes that country has towards sexuality, I guess it ‘s not really fair to be even in the slightest surprised that the majority ends up (apparently) not becoming sexually active until they’re all twenty-somethings with receding hairlines and a rapidly decreasing a sex-drive. And it also comes off as absolutely no surprise that this is somehow celebrated as a good thing by the old people there.

      Still, actually reading the statistics laid out i front of me was incredibly shocking and even a bit disappointing. So not only do they not start having sex until they’re so old they don’t really need it anymore, but when they finally do, 90 % of them chooses not to use contraception, and that only 14 % of them again ever has sex with more than maybe one or two?

      Jesus – fucking – Christ. I don’t know whether to dislike or pity them. Since when did the US turn into fucking Saudi-Arabia? That shit isn’t healthy. Still, I find it a bit strange that one CDC-survey says they’re having lots of sex, and then immediately, another CDC poll is posted that says “Nope, it’s pretty much horrible.” Why do the two of you have completely opposing information from reportedly the same survey?

      Also, the impression I had was that the average age for virginity loss in the US was around 16, or something. Which at least made me feel a bit relieved on their behalf. Sure, the US likes to do all this god-awful Puritan-talk about how all movies, videogames or whatever with the slightest hint of nudity or sex in them will horribly scar children for life, (while violence is A-OK!); how there must be no sex-ed in schools, lest their innocent, angelic youth be taught that sex is something awesome, healthy and generally speaking a fucking gift to humanity – but rather use blatant lies, scare-tactics and nonsense to scare them away from it altogether; and generally speaking that sex is shameful and should never be had until you’re at least 30, married and in the missionary position with the lights turned off and with as little pleasure and as much shame as possible -

      But you know what? At least I thought that the actual teenagers themselves recognized it on some level as the amazing amount of horrible, genuinely destructive bullshit that it is. But now this?

      Thank you, gwathdring, for giving me just a little bit less faith in
      humanity than before. Sometimes I wonder how the hell that country even manages to reproduce, if those are the values they have.

    • JackShandy says:

      “twenty-somethings with receding hairlines and a rapidly decreasing sex-drive”

      What kind of twenty-somethings have you been hanging out with? And what did they ever do to you?

      At first, I thought “14% had had sex with four or more people during their life” meant at the same time. Which was pretty impressive.

      SNARK EDIT: Haha, yes! Those americans! They certainly hold different values to us, which makes them unhealthy and/or deranged!

    • Big Daddy Dugger says:

      They teach girls to put condoms on cucumbers in elementary school here in Texas (Dallas ; Major US city), and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen any puritan abstinence stuff on TV, lately the shows aimed at teens (the MTV channels) has practically been child pornography. Look up “Hard Times of Rj Berger” or “Skins” those are kids shows lol.

      -Edit: what does this have to do with boardgames? lol

    • gwathdring says:

      I wasn’t clear enough: All of those statistics were for teenagers. High school, specifically. As to why we have conflicting information … dunno. I got everything below from here: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad362.pdf. And all of the high school stats from here: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/sexualbehaviors/. My guess is he was going from memory.

      More fun facts about American sex!

      14% of American high school students have had sex with 4 or more partners in their lifetime.

      The median number of sexual partners in a lifetime for Americans ages 15-19 is (M:F) 2:1, for 20-24 4:3, for 25-29 6:4, for 30-34 6:4, for 34-38 7:4, for 39-44 8:4. Note these are medians, not averages. Half of each age group is both above and below each figure.

      About 20% of American males (I had to do some mental math to glom the ethnic breakdown together, don’t trust that number) have had 15+ partners by the age 30-44. For women, this percentage is around 7%.

      90% of men who have had at least one male partner use condoms compared to only 60 something percent otherwise. 24% of married men used a condom the last time they had sex before being polled compared to 36% of non-married men. I think it was 60. I don’t want to dig through the whole article again.

      Approximately 10% of American men and 8% of American women ages 24-44 are virgins.

      Bascially, most Americans have sex for the first time as adults. But it’s close to half, really, at the 19 year old mark. And that’s gone down in the past few years. In 1991, the figure for 19 or younger was 54%. Teen sex is on the decline in America.

    • JackShandy says:

      Boardgames and sex just go together, Big Daddy. I couldn’t count the amount of orgies I’ve seen sparked off with an innocent game of Citadels or Cosmic Encounter. Couldn’t count them!

    • gwathdring says:

      @Grape.

      Really? There’s something wrong with Americans becasue they tend to wait longer to have sex? You’ve got to be kidding me. And it’s not as though no one is enjoying multiple partners. The 14% who had 4+ partners in high school maintains about the same rate until middle age. And those people with fewer partners aren’t necessarily having less sex or enjoying sex less. They’re just having fewer sexual partners. What’s wrong with that exactly? I suppose it means less variety in sexual preferences of their partners, but there’s more to relationships than sex.

      Do you really think being 20 makes you old? Christ. That’s quite a short life, to be old by 20. If you really think sex gets bad after the age of 20 … you’re in for a rather boring life, too. I can’t imagine confronting the belief that once I’m 30, I’ve had all of the interesting sex I’m every going to have, and I can see why that would put you in a very depressed state of mind. My grandparents informed us that they’ve always kept sexually active and that they find it an important part of their relationship at every age. ( I’m fine talking about this sort of thing with them. I’ve never got the whole “ewwwwww … old people have sex!” cultural meme. But dear god, did they have the most uncomfortable dinner conversations sometimes … I will always remember the “size doesn’t matter” Thanksgiving and the “genital mutilation” Christmas dinners …).

      I agree with you that there are a lot of issues with American public sexual culture. The way way we mix socially conservative attitudes towards sex in our private lives with commercialization and saturation of sex in our public lives is really rather confusing. Add to that that public presentation of sex is further complicated by arbitrary boundaries (salacious scenes on prime-time television are perfectly fine as long as there’s no nudity, but non-sexual scenes with nudity are out). I find American sexual culture a bit of a mess and am rather annoyed at the abstinence only plan for sexual education some schools use. However, I personally had a very thorough education about the biology of sex and birth control in Elementary School and again in Junior High in case anyone forgot or was in another district in Elementary School. Also, my family is quite open about sexual matters. My mother has always kept us informed about sex and made it clear to us that while she thought it was smart to wait until after high-school, what she really wanted was for us to be safe and the only thing that wasn’t really up to us was use of the house and getting( someone) pregnant. This is not the typical American household with respect to sexual education. But neither are the extremely conservative, sex-is-evil households that try to pretend teens don’t need to know anything about sexual matters.

      Are you so closed minded that you truly believe any Americans who have sex later in their lives and relationships than you do are part of some nationwide, anti-sex brainwashing? It’s a lot more complicated than that. I’m constantly railing against our sexual culture and the parts of it you wrongly believe constitute it’s entirety, but as an American who went through American high schools with American friends, and as an agnostic with liberal political and social attitudes who is, nevertheless, personally inclined to wait a long time before having sex within his relationships … I say it’s more complicated than that and a lot less bleak if still a little weird. I don’t know where you’re from but I’m sure your nation has sexual issues as well. Sex is too intimately human an activity not to cause problems of one form or another.

    • gwathdring says:

      @JackShandy

      Well, the rules do say you can offer whatever you want in Negotiations … never play Cosmic Encounter drunk.

      Surprisingly few of the alien powers work as innuendo, though. Maybe I’m just not good enough at dirty jokes. All I’ve got so far is: Machine can have as many encounters as it wants in a turn, Parasite doesn’t need permission before allying, Changling likes to switch places in the middle of an encounter, and Fungus likes to be on top. I suppose Lunatic can ally against itself … but I’m not really sure what that means …

    • JackShandy says:

      Sure, but Citadels is a goldmine. The Assassin always comes first, you see.

    • gwathdring says:

      Hmm. Promising. However, “He always comes first, and then somebody ends up dead or in the hospital,” is certainly on the bleaker end of absurd innuendo.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      @Grape: My eyes are rolling out the back of my head right now.

  3. DrGonzo says:

    All I’ll say is, I could kick your arse at Carcassonne, and I’ve used it myself to introduce quite a few people to boardgames and they loved it. But then again, my friends aren’t Scottish.

    You are right about the enjoying company of friends thing. But you say that as though it’s a bad thing. I like a bit of Space Hulk at times, but I’m not going to do it when drinking with my parents, whereas Carcassonne would be a great laugh with them.

    Also, Tom Vasel is fantastic!

  4. Radiant says:

    This article was bloody brilliant.
    I am DYING here.

  5. Radiant says:

    and I’ve been fucking since I was 14.
    A big fat girl with no boobs.
    In her school uniform she looked like tweedle dee.

  6. Hulk Handsome says:

    This article was so obnoxious that I’m thinking of buying this game and getting everyone I know to play it just to spite it.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      +1

    • Tokjos says:

      I agree. Bring back Quinns!

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      These guys love Carcassonne.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I honestly don’t know what RPS are doing letting Robert Florence post his drivel on here. His articles are uniformly terrible—it’s an opinionated boardgamegeek forumite given a podium, and his idea of what constitutes whimsical, humourous writing is a mile away from the usual RPS cast.

      (Also, yes, buy Carcassonne, or its hunter-gatherer spinoff. Its quite good.)

    • DisBeSrsBsns says:

      I agree. I much prefer the “Not Cardboard Children” columns.

    • CMaster says:

      While I think terrible is perhaps an exaggeration, Rab’s articles I find really annoying to read, because he doesn’t seem to get games journalism. His articles are constantly trying to outwit and outmanoeuvre the reader. They come across as an attempt to prove how much cleverer and funnier he is than the reader. Which is all very well, but I often end up with no idea of anything about the games being mentioned or the point trying to be discussed. Hell, one article I had to re-read a couple of times before I had a clue what was going on at all, with it’s constant interruptions and mid-sentence topic switches.

    • Jake says:

      -3

      This is a great article, don’t be mean.

    • Chris D says:

      “His articles are constantly trying to outwit and outmanoeuvre the reader”

      That’s not how I read it. I think he’s just assuming we’re fast enough to keep up.

    • CMaster says:

      @Chris D
      I’d disagree. When you switch subjects mid-sentence, shout at the reader, try to cram in piles of insults or abruptness, the end goal is to trick or surprise the reader. Which is a useful thing to do in the comedy Rab writes for a day job, but makes for bad games journalism.

      Edit: I’ve never mentioned this before, because I figured that nobody is making me read this and some people obviously liked it. But I did enjoy “not cardboard children” while at the same time, I only find Cardboard Children interesting or useful about once every six weeks or so. Obviously, writing style is a taste thing and this runs very much against my tastes.

    • Chris D says:

      @CMaster

      I think you might be taking it a little too personally. I think most of those things are in there for comic effect. It’s intended to be a rant. I think the points are genuine but the tone and style are exaggerated. You’re supposed to take it with a wink.

      Now, how well it works is debateable. Personally I enjoyed it but I can see not everyone might feel the same, and certainly combining that approach with criticism of a game a lot of people like is a bold move. I think it’s understandable that this column has drawn some flack, that’s what you expect when you take on sacred cows, but I think taking the article as a personal slight is a bit of a misunderstanding.

    • Jake says:

      I think the article is a lovely surreal stream of consciousness, it’s like getting cornered by an excitable and very drunk friend who is passionate about some obscure subject and then accidentally forgets what he is talking about and starts telling you about a dream he had. It’s ok that he is shouting because you know he isn’t angry, he’s just carried away and a little bit nuts. I love it and I wish I could write this way on my blog but I am far too tedious and reserved to suddenly make up a story about Parpellimonies.

      But Solomon Kane still sucks.

    • gwathdring says:

      I just don’t find them very informative when they don’t talk about the games. I love the ones that tell the ridiculous and possibly exaggerated stories about gameplay sessions. Those are informative in a way that most board game reviews aren’t. It’s a great angle on games and I like reading it. The Ghost Stories article was extremely useful to me, for example, as was the Mansions of Madness article (I decided not to buy based on that and more typical reviews, but slotted it firmly into my “maybe someone could get this for me at Christmas” list).

      He likes games for different reasons that I do, but I find myself in a similar position in some of the ways he differs from typical boardgame fans and reviewers so I like reading what he thinks about games and which games he likes. Sometimes the other stuff is funny or interesting but everytime I think he’s actually going to give some kind of a useful (if still obtuse, hyperbolic, and amusingly worded) analysis like he did in that Arkham Horror article, he switches gears to talk about something else. If I didn’t know anything going into this review about Carcasonne I wouldn’t feel like I knew anything about it coming out. I do, however, feel like he taught me something about Survive!, Ghost Stories, Arkham Horror, Ascending Empires, and Battlestar Galactica. Quinns just did that for me with every game he talked about.

      It’s something different, and I don’t always like it, but if I want an equally interesting while more useful review I can head over to Sit Down and Shut Up. in short, I notice a lot of the same problems, but I’ll still be reading these. :)

    • Ribonizer says:

      I stopped reading it halfway through and just speed read the rest because indeed, I realised this was just random dribble, altho witty, but completely empty of content and I wasn’t gonna put up with it. I rarely ever go TLDR, but this one time calls for it very much. I do miss the old cardboard children very much. Do love this guy’s video reviews tho. But articles just aren’t the same.

    • CMaster says:

      @Chris D

      It’s not about this article, in fact, as they go, this is one of the less bad ones. I certainly don’t give a shit about Carcassone. I do however think that Cardboard Children frequently shows a lack of respect for the reader. It frequently pulls a “hah, didn’t see that coming, did you, sucker!” for no purpose other than to make the reader do a double take. It certainly seems to put the “I feel strongly” and “hah, I’m cleverer than the reader” ahead of “let’s tell the reader something about games”.

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      Yeah, I also quit about about half way through.

      But I normally read Florence’s stuff, he’s pretty good – just prefer it when he’s more focused than this. You hit and miss, can’t hit every time, etc. There isn’t a blogger/writer on the internet who doesn’t throw out a bad article from time to time.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      I do however think that Cardboard Children frequently shows a lack of respect for the reader. It frequently pulls a “hah, didn’t see that coming, did you, sucker!” for no purpose other than to make the reader do a double take. It certainly seems to put the “I feel strongly” and “hah, I’m cleverer than the reader” ahead of “let’s tell the reader something about games”.

      I know people are getting more and more sensitive these days, but honestly?
      Certain people here really take life (and themselves) far too seriously.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      This was just an ace article, creative, surreal and a joy to read. Thank you rab, when my plane is plummeting to the ground my last action will be to whip my schlong out and crack one off to you.

      And far from the complaints that it is uninformative, if you pick your knuckles off the ground and try, so desperately try not to be out manoeuvred then you can read into the surrealism, between the lines and discover a world of commentary about the function of board games, and why popular ones that are enjoyable may not nessecarily fullfill these.

    • John P says:

      I think RPS should just dot point all their articles and leave it at that. All those words get in the way of the information.

    • gwathdring says:

      Eddy9000
      …. wow. Pick my knuckles off the ground? You’re good at this.

      I quite enjoy these articles. And sometimes, yes, inside the silliness is a mix of both intentional and unintentional deeper commentary on the games being discussed. But sometimes it’s just silliness. And that’s fun to read for a lot of us … but some readers want a lot more more information about the games and Rab’s articles tend to be a bit of a board-gaming strip-tease. He picks out the best bits, waves them at you, and then just before he fully reveals how it works or why it works he sprints off to make something else look tantalizing or just muck about in his own fashion. Personally, I think that’s fine. Rab does his thing and if you want better reviews, you can look elsewhere. When I want more informative reviews, I DO look elsewhere.

      Some of his pieces, as I mentioned, really do hit up all the angles: casual description, in depth analysis, demographic recommendation, absurd humor, gaming anecdotes, “feel” of the game. But not as consistently as my preferred games writers, so when I come here it’s more for the utterly bizarre ride of something like the James Purefoy article and a bunch of game titles to investigate than for the information on those games.

      And while we’re on the subject of accusing people of being unintellectual or outright primitive for not being in on some great, expertly honed, razor sharp bit of games-journalism genius on Rab’s part … on second though, let’s just not be on that subject at all. It’s a rather ridiculous subject.

    • MD says:

      I like Cardboard Children! I was initially turned off by the theme (I have nothing against board games, but I didn’t think I was interested in them) and the word ‘youse’, but lately I’ve warmed to it and become a bit of a Robert Florence fan.

      I think there might be a tendency for some readers to misinterpret Rab’s tone. I remember last week’s article,* which started off with some ironic PC-gamer-bashing. Of course someone managed to take it seriously, which was frustrating but inevitable. But I reckon others might have read it as much more biting than it was intended. To me it was obviously just a warm-hearted gentle pisstake, like most of Rab’s writing.

      I suspect others might read his tone differently, and see him as some sort of ranting maniac. (Of course, maybe he is, and I’m getting it totally wrong! I don’t think so, though. I would bet decent money that he’s an intelligent, friendly guy.)

      Anyway, I’m sure others understand him but just don’t enjoy his writing. Each to their own, but Rab’s presence here is appreciated by some of us!

      *(I haven’t gone back to check, so I might be getting the date and some of the details wrong)

    • Nick says:

      Its a very good thing none of you guys have a say in who get to write for the site.

    • RobF says:

      Yuss, it’d be a desperately miserable world if we didn’t get stuff like this. It’s one of the best pieces of games journalism I’ve read in ages.

      THERE ARE NO RULES. STOP INVENTING RULES.

    • gwathdring says:

      Rules are good for writing. Then when you break them, it creates an even more interesting contrast than when you simply write without the rules being there to begin with. Like the fourth wall, if it were always gone or broken in every play, the intrigue is lost.

      So I like rules, but I fully agree with the general sentiment, and it’s application tot he article. :)

    • Uthred says:

      “bad games journalism” ? Ah the internet, where “Not to my taste” magically morphs into an objective value judgment

    • rayne117 says:

      If you found the article disrespectful, well, you’re just a babby.

      MORE FLORENCE

      H@T3R$ M@K3 M3 F@M0U$

    • Nick says:

      “it’s an opinionated boardgamegeek forumite given a podium”

      Oh just fuck off LionsPhil.

    • TheApologist says:

      Just wanted to say that this article is some of the best fun I’ve had reading RPS. Loved it. And contrary to those who found it uninformative, I found it truly informative. It told me about a games players passion for and against certain games, and why. No it wasn’t about the details of the interactions of various mechanics, but it was about aesthetics and what he thinks might put people off a hobby he loves. Works for me.

  7. Vinraith says:

    I’ll take Carcassonne as an intro game over something like Survive! any day of the week, because many people (and even more non-gamers) are very uncomfortable with the notion of screwing over other players (particularly friends and family). It’s not what they’re looking for in a game, it makes them feel bad to do it and they take it personally when it’s done to them. You have to work up to that, thicken the skin a bit, if you can ever get them there at all. You certainly don’t start with it.

    • nemryn says:

      And what, Carcassonne doesn’t let you screw over the other players?

      I was going to put my guy on that farm, you fffffffffffffffffffff

    • Vinraith says:

      Exactly, it’s a gentle introduction to the concept without making it a core mechanic. There’s a difference between a game that can be played that way and a game that must be played that way.

    • JuJuCam says:

      Me and my ex got so good at the Carc base game that any third player to come on board would invariably win because we were busy making each others roads and towns unfinishable.

    • qrter says:

      Vinraith makes a very good point – not everyone playing games really wants them to be competitive. It’s the difference between playing a game with and against other people. It all depends on the mix of people, really.

    • patricij says:

      I prefer to play WITH people, myself…

    • James says:

      The idea that screwing other people isn’t a core mechanic of Carcassonne…how did you come to that conclusion?

      You draw a tile.
      You put a tile (and a token) down somewhere beneficial, and in doing so you deny other players that and related options (until/unless they then screw you in the same manner).

      It may be a more friendly experience than other games for some, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the actual mechanics.

  8. Pantsman says:

    And I thought I was the only one who didn’t like Carcassonne!

  9. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    My great uncle was a Parpellimonie, unfortunately he worked with the concords, so, when the shit hit the fan, he lost his job, he is now a shoe spit-shiner who lives in Ireland and is addicted to crack. what a shame. I should ask him if he wants to play Carcassonne sometime, or spacehulk.

  10. Shrike says:

    This article was magnificent. I am someone with a vague interest in board games who was “moved beyond monopoly” by being introduced to Carcassonne, so I was very skeptical at first. I think a part of me already agreed with you though. I like Carcassonne, but it’s hard to miss the fact that those guys jumping around and chattering madly while playing D&D on the table next to us are having far more fun. Since D&D is still a bit intimidating to me, I will take your recommendations.

    • qrter says:

      Don’t let yourself be intimidated by D&D – it’s quite easy and quick to grasp. The trick is finding a more experienced group or Dungeon Master.

      Don’t keep waiting on the sidelines, jump in with both feet – you’ll have a great time, even when still learning the basics.

    • gwathdring says:

      Mostly, if you have a good GM, pen-and-paper games almost always going to work out really well. The more limits the GM has, the more particular the group dynamic that still allows the game to run in an enjoyable fashion.

  11. Mr. Stark says:

    I LOVE YOU ROBERT FLORENCE!

    • Mr. Stark says:

      Also, every time you mention Space Hulk it makes me angry since I can’t find a copy.

      Can you work your magic to make it back in print at non-astronomical costs?

    • iainl says:

      Every time Space Hulk is mentioned I get depressed that I lost mine. But also, I’m not introducing my six-year-old to board games through throat-ripping aliens vs. armoured soldiers in the 400th century. He likes Carcassonne because he doesn’t like us being nasty to him.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Ask around at every Games Workshop you see. I did, and one of the shop assistants brought in his spare still sealed copy from home, and sold it to me at RRP! He could have asked for 300 quid, as it’s rare enough to justify it. But he was a lovely guy!

      So, another thanks to the guy in Nottinghams Games Workshop, you’re a legend!

    • Azazel says:

      I must see if I still have my tatty copy of Warhammer Quest anywhere aboots…

  12. Allandaros says:

    Preach it!

    Note of Heresy: I find that games like Stone Age and Agricola fall into this category also. If asked to choose between a punch in the face and playing Agricola, I would hesitate for a while. At least with a punch in the face the pain ends quickly.

  13. Morph says:

    Could be worse, could be Settlers of Catan.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Could be worse.

      Could be Monopoly.

    • gwathdring says:

      What’s especially bad about Monopoly is that it’s not an indicator of much at all. If you love Monopoly … you love Monopoly.

      Catan is a nice entry-level Eurogame. If you don’t like Catan it’s at least a half-decent indicator of how much you’re going to enjoy certain other Eurogames and which ones you should try next. If you love Catan … boy are you in for a treat with some of the better Eurogames–probably.

      If you like Pandemic, you should try some of the more complicated Co-Op games. If you don’t like Pandemic, you probably shouldn’t unless the theme really grabs your attention. Even with Carcasonne, you’re being introduced to a genre of city building games like Alahamara. It gives you an idea of what you might like to try next.

      Hell, if you like Risk or still want to play it despite hating it immediately following every session, that gives your FLGS and gaming buddies some ideas of what sorts of less frustrating strategy games might scratch your itch. With Monopoly … it really says very little.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Except I generally enjoy “Eurogames”, but Catan is just rubbish. I’d rather play Snakes & Ladders, because then my random outcome would at least involve less sitting about waiting for other people to move because Catan commits the design gaffe of easily letting one player fall into turn after turn of having literally no actions available to them—I don’t think I’ve ever had a game of it where someone didn’t spend half of it doing absolutely nothing, and it’s always a miserable experience for it.

    • gwathdring says:

      It really depends on the person. And you’re right, Catan isn’t a great example. Catan is sort of half Eurogame half Monopoly–it takes some Eurogame aspects and attaches them to the “make the best of statistical outcomes” board layout. Wow. You know, now that I think about it in terms of mechanics and game theory, Catan is a lot like Monopoly if designed by a Eurogame designer.

      But I know loads of people who absolutely love Catan and who say it got them into boardgames. Really, I think we just need to get rid of the idea of Gateway Games the board-game community has. They don’t exist. If you think you’re friends will like the game and are open to the learning process required for that particular game … then it’s a good game for that group. Whether or not they are new to boardgaming has very little to do with whether or not they will enjoy Arkham Horror. I know lots of people who love board games and wouldn’t touch something as complex as Arkham Horror with a 10-foot pole.

      Ok. I’ve been wondering for a while. How the #*$@ does an adventurer carry around a ten-foot-pole? Why is that offered as starting equipment in D&D? How do you fit through doors? How do you survive combat without knocking down all of your allies as you doge your opponents?

  14. Boozebeard says:

    I finally played “Descent: Journeys in the Dark” on Wednesday. First “proper” board game me and my friends have tried and we had a great time. In fact we all enjoyed it so much we played again yesterday.

  15. jaheira says:

    Introduction introschmuction. Start ‘em on Arkham Horror minimum. Weed out the stupids day one.

  16. Reivles says:

    Many new players tend to be uncomfortable with direct-confrontational board games, and especially backstabbery – it’s fun, but remember how many family arguments happened over Monopoly? Yeeaah. So for people used to such stuff causing high drama, indirect competition is a gentler way to start things out.

    Furthermore, unlike Magical Athlete, Carcassonne, for all that it can be rather dry (But seriously, is it worse than Monopoly?), has a real advantage – it’s got solid game mechanics behind it, and that is what you’re trying to show people with a gateway game.
    Once they know that, you start to teach them game complexity, and social complexity (aka ‘No need to be upset all afternoon just because someone screwed you in the game’)… and you move onto the good stuff.

    Still, at least I’m starting to understand this feature at last – it’s a humor column, not an actual boardgame review. I suspect first stumbling on it when it was Not Cardboard Children (with the reviews that made things sound so nifty that cost me three new games in the time it ran) rather spoiled my expectations a little. No harm no foul, now that I’ve finally got the joke. :P

    • Ribonizer says:

      But this isn’t a humour site.

    • jaheira says:

      “But this isn’t a humour site”
      And therefore there must be nothing funny on it. Ever. It is the law.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      “But this isn’t a humour site.”
      Since when?

      For example
      For example
      For example
      For example

      If you want a serious site about serious business, go read the Financial Times or something. RPS always has been (and hopefully always will be) a humourous, fun place, and Rab’s articles continue in this tradition.

    • bill says:

      but this is a SERIOUS site about the technical details of games! It’s not about the writing style or the character or enjoying the articles!!!

  17. Srekel says:

    I must say I disagree, for a few reasons. And since this is the internet, this is important! ;)

    1) Like Vinraith points out, a lot of players, especially new ones, don’t like stabbing too much. I’ve got a couple of friends who play quite a lot of board games but still prefer tactics that aren’t aggressive. And as pointed out already, there’s quite a bit of stabbing going on in Carcassone already. My fiancée doesn’t play it with me because I tend to hijack castles, ruining her plans.

    2) There’s a fair amount of strategy to it – the “you play a tile, then the next player does, etc” is just an unfair simplification. Many games can be broken down that way and it doesn’t really say anything about them.

    3) It’s an excellent game for beginners because the rules are very simple and intuitive, there’s no violence, and it’s suitably non-abstract. “I built a castle!”. It also has about the right amount of chance for someone who has just played Monopoly and Snakes and ladders before. (although I’ve been meaning to try a version where you keep a hand of one tile so you have a little bit of choice during your turn). It’s also helped by having a “neutral” setting based on a real historic town. Some people are actually put off by fantasy/scifi elements.

    • malkav11 says:

      I don’t know that any of these things are untrue, exactly. But if my first introduction to “proper” boardgaming had been Carcassonne, I probably would have written it off because my god, Carcassonne bores me to tears.

  18. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I dunno, I quite like Carcassone. There are a bunch of expansions, with the fantasy one being the best. There’s a fairy which can earn you bonus points for a razor’s edge victory, and a dragon that is designed to fuck over everyone on the board–though nice players can manipulate its movement rules to trap it and keep everyone safe.

  19. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Has anyone played Mill Bornes (may not be spelled correctly)? It’s kind of like Uno, yet it somehow manages to ramp up the “fuck-you” aspect. A blast to play when your group is drinking moderate-to-heavy amounts of alcohol.

    • ohnoabear says:

      My parents bought my brother and I Milles Bornes when we were kids. I remember enjoying it quite a bit, although it’s probably been about fifteen years since I last played it.

    • DocHogan says:

      I *always* make sure to have a copy of Mille Borne in my (currently, admittedly small) games collection. Right now I have 2 1967 Milton Bradley editions, one at the house, and one that stays in my truck (“just in case”).

      I also keep a copy of Steve Jackson Games’ “Illuminati Deluxe Edition” on hand at all times.

  20. Pardoz says:

    But he, he never came to Carcassonne.

  21. Kryopsis says:

    Carcassonne is the only board game I like.
    Before somebody says that I probably haven’t played a ‘proper’ board game (whatever that is), let me clarify that I have played everything from Zombies!!! to Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Runebound, Betrayal at House on the Hill, a half-dozen of Risk titles, various Settlers of Catan, even the dreaded Monopoly. The only board game I have ever played that does not bore me minutes after setting up the board is Carcassonne, although I admit that I’d like to give Space Hulk a try.
    I’d like to add that people who are unfamiliar with board games probably do not want to read a 50 page manual and spend half an hour setting up the board before even attempting to play the thing. How about games that can be explained in a sentence, games that don’t have all sorts of obscure rules you have to constantly keep in mind, games that do not feature convoluted mechanics and interactions… How about games like Carcassonne?

    Or you can introduce them to ‘Setting Up Axis & Allies: The Game’ and lose what friends you had…

    • malkav11 says:

      People who don’t enjoy those sorts of games aren’t people I want to play boardgames with anyhow. Boardgames that can be explained in a sentence do nothing for me.

    • gwathdring says:

      Hive is amazing. Chess is amazing. Go is amazing. Yinsh is amazing. There are all kinds of great, simple games that can be explained in a paragraph or less. And I have the Oxford Dictionary of Card Games and boy did it liven up lunch time in high school. Simple games are great fun, and who cares about “gateway gaming.” Any game can be a gateway game with the right group of people. You have to know your audience. For my friends? Cosmic Encounter and Ghost Stories could not have been better choices. I hooked someone who had sworn off board games ages ago with Ghost Stories. Sure it took twenty minutes to explain and they forgot some of the rules every now any then and we died horribly. But we all loved it immensely.

      It helped that I learned the rule-book backwards and forwards and read FAQs ahead of time–I was able to answer questions quickly when they came up and I would recommend the research-and-solo-play method for anyone thinking to introduce a moderately complicated board game to new players or even non-expert board-gamers. I find it really useful to play even games like Battlestar Galactica through by myself to make sure I “get” the way turns work and come up with questions that players might ask that I wouldn’t think of just from the rulebook. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend role-playing as five different people and getting really into it just becasue you deal out five hands of cards … that part wasn’t necessarily useful, it’s just how I roll. (ba-dum-tsh)

      The best gateway games are the best games. Period. Everything else is a matter of timing and personal interests. Sure getting your boyfriend who won’t touch anything that isn’t Lord of the Rings with a ten foot pole to play Space Alert might take a bit of working-up-to or out-right trickery. Sure getting your girlfriend who reads Russian novels and likes short abstracts and card games isn’t going to jump into Arkham Horror on a whim. But playing Carcasonne, Pandemic, Lost Cities, or Settlers of Catan with either party isn’t going to change that.

    • Deccan says:

      @gwathdring: I am missing Yinsh and Zertz, which bugs me, as Yinsh looks bloody brilliant. Dvonn would have to be my favourite of the others, though.

    • gwathdring says:

      They’re such gorgeous games. I haven’t played most of them. I’ve played Zertz and Yinsh and I love them to pieces. I want to find a copy of Tzaar because I fell in love with a video tutorial he did of it both for the game philosophy and the gameplay. The whole series is a wonderful design example. There’s an interesting concept, the components are top-notch, the gameplay is simple yet intricate, and they all combine together to make a final, intricate puzzle of a game. Eventually I’ll track them all down and give Gipf a try with the extended rules. :)

      Personally, I prefer Go as an abstract. Though Hive and Yinsh are up there. Go is very much my pace of game. And something about it clicks with me. I had a good sense of it the first time I played. My friend was trying to teach me at first, but by the end of the game he couldn’t keep up. I’m by no means an expert and I’m still learning, but there’s just something in that game that really strikes my board-gaming core.

  22. DeCi says:

    I’m sorry Robert Florence, I dont like your Writing style and opinions and cheap plugs of money raising bullshit.
    I want Quinns Back :(
    PS: I like Carcasonne and for the people raging on Monopoly i bet you never played it by the rules properly but instead played by (house rules):
    http://scibbe.com/?p=219

    • Nick says:

      go read Quinns boardgame blog thing then.

    • The Sentinel says:

      I think Quinns left after only a year because of rude people like you. It would be a crying shame if Robert started to feel the same way.

    • bill says:

      quinns was only filling in because we all complained about Rob being a slacker and never writing…

    • Uthred says:

      “cheap plugs of money raising bullshit.” for a charity a guy set up in memory of his dead son, yeah total bullshit champ

    • Nick says:

      I seriously doubt he left because nasty people hurt his feelings.

  23. Pantsman says:

    Everyone who defends Carcassonne here seems to do so on the basis that games like Space Hulk can’t be played with your mum & da, or that newbies might not like all the backstabbing of games like Survive! And these are both good arguments against using those games as intro games. But the problem is that even then, there are countless boardgames which don’t have those problems, and which are still much better than Carcassonne. There’s Catan, Citadels, Dixit if you want something non-strategic, and that’s just off the top of my head. All are low on necessary backstabbing, none are likely to put people off by their themes, and most importantly, unlike Carcassonne, all are a blast to play.

    • Vinraith says:

      News Flash: Different people find different games fun. I quite enjoy Carcassonne, as do my friends. I certainly enjoy it more than Catan or Ticket to Ride, for example.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      I’ll defend Carcassonne on the basis of loving to play it. I play a metric shitload of games. In any given week my girlfriend and me will play Lost Cities (both card and board versions), Call of Cthulhu (looking forward to next week), Last Night on Earth, A Touch of Evil and Carcassonne. There’s also Puerto Rico when we have a third player with us. But when we do have more players, we’re usually playing RPGs. Which we do a lot. And there’s also a ton of other games we’re taking a break from but used to play a lot.

      Point being, we play a lot of games. Carcassonne is among them because it is great. Not because it’s a great ‘gateway game’. Or because it’s anything other than a good game, really.

      What sort of term is that, anyway? Gateway game. Jeez. I’m not trying to trick anyone into playing against their better judgment. If someone shows an interest in maybe playing something, I’ll explain what games I have and they’ll pick one that sounds like something they might like.

    • gwathdring says:

      Thank you, dawngreeter. Gateway games are nonsense. :)

  24. Mozai says:

    Cosmic Encounter is not a good gateway game.

    “Okay here are the rules. Well, some of the rules. There’s actually more rules, but we’re only going to play with the first, second and fourth parts of the rules. Now during the game, you’re going to be surprised and upset because some players won’t be following the rules. Oh, and you aren’t able to use a strategy because you could have a shitty hand of cards, and the Warp Cards will force you to attack random targets — unless you are the player allowed to break that rule, or we’re adding rule set #7 to the game.”

    If I tried this with Monopoly (“we’re playing with free parking, but not Community Chest” and “roll a d30 to see which space on the board you teleport to” and “the boot can build houses on Just Visiting, but only the boot”) tables would flip unless they were already boardgamers that are used to weird metarule stuff.

    • Chris D says:

      I don’t know who you play Monopoly with but that happens to me every single time.

      “You guys all know about the auction rule, right?”

      “Never heard of it. That’s not a real thing.”

      “It’s in the rule book right here.”

      “My family never played that way so it can’t be there. You’re making it up. It’s also way too complicated. Lets use the free parking rule instead.”

      “But that removes what little element of skill there is!”

      “Don’t be so boring. It’s a laugh”

      “GAAAAAH! PURGE THE HERETIC IN THE NAME OF THE EMPEROR!”

    • DeCi says:

      @Chris D
      Thats exaclty what i was getting at: There is alot of hate for Monopoly because no one plays with the proper Rules: AKA Auction rule. Solves all the Backstabbery and unfair advantages by someone landing on all the good streets and buying them.

    • gwathdring says:

      There’s a lot of hate for Monopoly becasue a lot of people have bad memories of it. Most of the people who don’t like it don’t like the basic gameplay with or without incorrect rules and houserules. Sure, there are some people who would change their minds one way or the other if they either didn’t used the common house-rules or used the often-neglected auction rules. But I don’t like the game either way. And I know plenty of people who don’t and/or based on their gameplay preference probably wouldn’t like the game either way. Stop projecting just because you like Monopoly! I’m sure it can be lots of fun for some people, but it’s a rather particular game and it’s practically it’s own genre and as such it’s a rather acquired taste.

      The auction rule only solves certain types of backstabbery and game slow-down for certain people. It’s not a cure all and it doesn’t magically change the game from a controversial family tradition to an instant hit. Please stop claiming that is why people don’t like Monopoly. There’s anecdotal evidence for both sides of the argument and until someone does the statistics, I’m going with “It’s still Monopoly either way, and the auction rule is not the One True Secret to loving Monopoly.”

    • gwathdring says:

      Wait … how does that prevent backtabbing at all? Doesn’t it increase backstabbing through auction dynamics? Getting lucky and landing on the good streets and promptly buying them isn’t exactly “backstabbing.” Furthermore, the streets you are most likely to land on are the good ones, precisely becasue you are statistically more likely to land on them and thus pay the owner money.

      I find this mostly encourages players to buy properties on Mortgage to prevent other players from benefiting when a property they can’t afford would otherwise go up for auction. It doesn’t do much to alter the luck factor, which is what bothered my friends and I as kids, or really reduce the amount of back-stabbey trading that happens in the game. Auction doesn’t change trading rules. Auction makes the game a bit shorter. Auction doesn’t change how nasty and boring the end-game can be. Auction doesn’t change how little on-board strategy exists in the game. These things don’t make Monopoly a bad game–for people who like games that rely on your ability to extort your opponents through suggestive dealing instead of on-board strategy it can be a great game. But for those people it’s probably just as fun with or without auction.

    • malkav11 says:

      I hate Monopoly. I also hate auction mechanics. So reinserting an auction mechanic that has been left out? Not likely to change my mind.

  25. RadioactiveMan says:

    My circle of gaming friends and I enjoy Carcassonne, beyond being an excuse to spend time together and drink beer. We like the mechanics, and there is more strategy than Mr. Florence is giving credit for in this article. We like Carcassone enough that we bought several expansions. The expansions are great- they expand the tile options, but don’t really modify the core mechanic. Also, I think Vinraith also pointed out something important- its a game which can be played as cleanly, or as nastily, as you like. But nastiness is not required. HOWEVER, it is true that Carcassonne would likely not be in my thoughts as a I plummet to my doom. No boardgame would be.

    On a related note, my preferred Card Game for introducing new folks to Card Games is Pit. its quite simple, but also quite a good way to yell at your friends. Cards! Commodities! Trades! The Bull! Bear! LOUD NOISES!

    • Chris D says:

      I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt about Carcasonne’s mechanics but I’m afraid you lost all credibility by mentioning Pit. Come on. Your last sentence is too accurate.

      “Cards! Commodities! Trades! The Bull! Bear! LOUD NOISES!” The thing is, that’s the entire game.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Yes, thats true :)

      I suppose I should clarify- On the topic of gateway games, Pit is about the simplest thing you can imagine. Its incredibly easy but also quite enjoyable with a big group who have never played any kind of game before. I would say it fits Florence’s criteria of creating memorable gaming moments to recall afterwards. But, as you say, Pit is simple and I suspect most people graduate from it quickly.

  26. BunnyPuncher says:

    I would add Roborally and Junta to the list of great gateway games.

    Well, the list of great games anyway… I suppose Junta is a little complex for a gateway game but it does have the huge advantage that doing very badly early on is ok. I think the key component to a great gateway game is that its not only engaging but theres a compelling reason to keep playing and keep competing right through to the end. Junta manages this quite well even if the winner was decided on turn 1.

    • Vinraith says:

      Roborally’s a lot of fun, and a good gateway game. Junta’s a lot of fun, but using it as a gateway game seems like a good way to lose friends. Hell, that’s even a risk when playing it with gaming vets.

    • DeCi says:

      U can play roborally and many other games including axis and allies online here:
      http://www.gametableonline.com/welcome.php
      Great community!

      I always go there for a some AnA games with my foreign mates :)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Roborally is great for being a game that (mostly) scales as constant time taken against number of players.

      So many boardgames involve huge waiting periods with more than a small handful of periods, especially if you’ve got players who think too much.

  27. Elmar Bijlsma says:

    Uhm… yeah… like… could this article be about a thousand words shorter?
    For the amount of content, be it “humorous” or informative, it is just way too long. And rubbish.

  28. McDan says:

    Mr Florence, you’re bloody mad. And excellent.

  29. TooNu says:

    Hilarious again big man :) love it.

  30. FKD says:

    I was just going to say that I disagree with many of you who are saying that family/friends are usualy uncomfortable with backstabbing and all that fun nonsense. Every time I have sat down to a game of Munchkin with new players they are usually some of the most vile backstabbers I have come across! Then again, that is really a whole goal of the game, and seeing as that is about the extent of my “nerd games” perhaps these other ones bring out a different aspect in family/friends? Maybe the other games are not as fun/funny and more dark/serious and that is what causes the disconnect with backstabbing?

    • Vinraith says:

      It all depends on the friends/family in question, obviously.

    • FKD says:

      Well that certainly is obvious..and completly ignores the other point I was trying to make.

  31. ninjapirate says:

    I’ve been playing Carcassonne since 2001, and I still enjoy it! Once you play the game with a few expansions (most importantly the first two), Carcassonne turns into a much better experience, and if sabotaging opponent(s) and/or stealing their points is part of the players’ strategy, it can be quite competitive.

  32. anon_coward says:

    By my personal preferences, this was one of the worst articles I’ve read on RPS.
    I’m really sorry, Robert Florence.
    I’m sure you are a nice person and all, and I’m sure you can write good articles. However, this was not one that I liked.

  33. patricij says:

    Carcassonne.
    There, hahahahaha*!

    *evil laugher…

  34. borto says:

    I have poured over the Not Cardboard Children reviews, and my wife and I have had fun playing the Lord of the Rings card game based on its recommendation. I’m looking forward to getting Arkham Horror next and dream of finding enough people/time to play Descent.

    These Cardboard Children articles do absolutely nothing for me.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      You do realise that the Arkham Horror article was a Cardboard Children article?

    • gwathdring says:

      Some of the Cardboard Children articles are just as content-heavy as the Not-Cardboard children articles. Some of them aren’t. Florence is more of a mixed bag, but even if you don’t enjoy his style of humor it’s worth coming by to see if he’s more in the Arkham Horror/Survive!/Ghost Stories type mood today.

    • borto says:

      Looking back, you both are totally right. I guess it’s a question of where he’s put his emphasis on the past two columns.

  35. jaheira says:

    This article was one of the funniest and weirdest things I think I’ve seen on RPS. I demand more.

  36. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Hell yeah.

    I can’t stand Carcassone. When even people that like it say “Well, I mean, as long as you play with the right add-ons, and don’t take too long, it’s fun, right?” it’s not a good sign.

    Settlers of Catan is another “play this to start them off” game that, while a good game, is also not particularly mind-blowing.

    Also, I’m proud to say I was part of the Jack Vassel Memorial Auction over on BGG. I’ll agree that everyone should contribute if they can.

  37. Djinn and Juche says:

    This article was spot-on in my experience as the boardgaming inductee. My friends tried to get me to play Carcassonne with them, on the basis that it was a great gateway game, and I hated it. Same with Settlers of Catan, incidentally. And then they got me to give boardgaming one more chance, and played Diplomacy with me. They are no longer my friends, but I am now a fan of board games.

  38. ClockworkTiger says:

    An article challenging the conventional wisdom that Carcassonne is an ideal introduction to board games for new players while offering three alternate suggestions is an excellent idea for an article. Unfortunately, the great article that should have been seems to have been smothered to death by the tedious, unfunny, nonsensical shaggy-dog story that was forcably shoved down it’s craw. Too bad the rambling blather about flying people and tiny creatures in machines left so very little room for the parts of the article that were actually interesting.

  39. bill says:

    This article is great, other than the fact it’s totally wrong .

    I’d bet the reason so many people suggest Carcassonne as an introductory boardgame is because they’ve used it as an introductory boardgame and it works.

    I used it as an introductory boardgame and it worked. It’s simple enough to pick up, but it has surprising depth. It looks nice, but it’s not intimidating. It doesn’t involve too much screwing over.

  40. Whosi says:

    *shrug*

    The game I’ve had the most success with in introducing people to boardgames is Memoir ’44. To me the thing that matters the most is knowing a bit about the new players and which kind of game would have the best chance of drawing them into the hobby. To make a blanket statement like you did about Carcassonne is just downright irresponsible….just because it doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for others.

    Though I was enjoying the Douglas Adams vibe you had going for a bit, I have to agree with some of the others in that this has been your worst CC column to date, notwithstanding the excellent Jack Vasel Memorial piece you mentioned(the Jack Vasel Auction badge I own at BGG is my favorite).

  41. drewski says:

    I don’t normally read CC, but I chuckled at this one.

    Rob’s right though, unless the game’s utterly awful it won’t ruin the pleasure of spending time with people you love doing something together.

  42. Nick says:

    Well I enjoyed it, even if you apparently personally offended some people with your writng.

  43. bill says:

    Where did all the people with no sense of humor suddenly come from?? And why are they reading Cardboard Children for short concise factual reviews anyway???

    • gwathdring says:

      Dunno. Concise it has never been. But Quinns was more on topic, so anyone who got into them through Quinns is going to be a bit confused where all the madcap came from and where all the game info went.

      He’s not everyone’s thing, and CC is still reseting after being made into a more serious, but still humorous, board game column.

      I don’t get all the people saying “This is shit!” and otherwise chucking tomatoes and I don’t understand why they’re surprised because Rab’s done this in past articles as well pre-Quinns. But that doesn’t mean the detractors lack a sense of humor. Your sense of humor, certainly.

    • ClockworkTiger says:

      Well, I certainly don’t expect a “short, concise, factual review”, but I also don’t expect the article to lurch off into a semi-coherent fever dream.

      I don’t mind a bit of the meandering, stream-of-consciousness wackiness that Robert Florence is known for from time to time. It can be used to punch up a dry subject in much the same way that a bit of seasoning can enhance the flavor of a fine steak. For this particular article, I feel like I’ve been handed a heaping plate of spices with a bit meat hidden somewhere in there.

  44. Kdansky says:

    Related: Finally played a good round of Arkham where we got very different characters each and actually knew how to win. The immersion that happens between the lines is magnificent, I have to say. Eat it, Hashtur! Eat it! We totally won.

    • Schadenfreude says:

      Played a solo game yesterday with the “Curse of the Dark Pharoah” expansion; Azathoth as the GOO. All was going well until Dexter Drake, traversing the planes of Yuggoth, walked slap bang into Shub-Niggurath (The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) and was promptly devoured.

      I was on the back foot for the rest of the game until Azathoth awakened and the world ended.

      Fun game though – Harvey Walters was drafted in to replace Dexter. The intent was to replace my spellcaster, but he ended up drawing a magical sword from the Unique deck so the old codger spent the rest of the game running around Arkham lopping off heads and generally slaying Dholes and Ghouls and Elder Things. Professor Bad-Ass :D

  45. BathroomCitizen says:

    Robert Florence is the boss.

  46. BooleanBob says:

    I have no idea where the army of humourless psychopaths warped in from either. Rab, this article is amazing; never change.

  47. yutt says:

    I can’t believe how vicious and mean-spirited half these comments are. Is RPS or Youtube people?

    If you miss Not Cardboard Children, go to shutupshow.tumblr.com, and stop polluting this discussion with your bile.

  48. Bodminzer says:

    Look at you fucking commenters. You don’t deserve this. You don’t deserve the heartfelt, longform and personal style RPS is known for. You deserve dull metacritic numberboxes. You deserve reviews delivered in the form of stupid meme comics. All you bellends who came here from reddit and now expect the site to be exactly like that shithole can fuck off.

  49. hoobajoo says:

    The idea that a group of friends, or especially family members, do not desire backstabbing is so insane to me. My family played a decent amount of board and card games: clue is boring as all hell, monopoly is a long trail of misery, and Stratego, while I had a lot of fun with it, isn’t especially memorable.

    But Hearts, that was our game. A vicious, murder-inducing game of constantly passing the buck onto someone else, where every move is ripe with treachery. Exclamations of my parents loving my sister more, and conspiring to laden me with exactly 25 points in one hand, and minutes later, I wear sick grin as I play the King of Hearts to steal victory when all seemed lost, THESE are the memories that last. It’s the pathos, the utter naked humanity of these games. Family bonds forged over years are meaningless under the queen of spade’s hateful shadow.

    • gwathdring says:

      Ha! Yes. We played hearts every morning in Junior High. All of my friends who came to school early got together and it could get pretty nasty, though we never took it very seriously. I think my favorite game was when I explained “shooting the moon” to a friend who’d never heard of the rule with the stipulation that it was virtually impossible unless you were dealt a perfect hand … and boy was I dealt a perfect hand. I did it two games in a row and then I don’t think I pulled it off again for the rest of the year because no one trusted me to take more than a few hearts without taking an insurance trick. :P

      That game can be pretty damn cutthroat. I absolutely love the passing mechanic. It’s brilliant. It’s delightful when new players suddenly realize that the best way to screw over their neighbor and help themselves is rarely just to ditch their highest cards. I love card games. :)