Category Archives: News

Boardgames in the News: Fake Games from a High Street Name

As reported previously, fake and counterfeit goods are not uncommon online, especially with purchases from certain auction sites.  Even companies like Amazon are not immune though, thanks to co-mingling of stock with that from other third-party sellers and returned items.  More recently, however, there have been lots of reports of issues with copies of Pandemic, Dead of Winter, Carcassonne, Catan, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle bought from Zavvi.  This is of note, not because of the games (which have been targeted before), but because Zavvi is a reputable high street name.

Pandemic
– Image by BGG contributor kilroy_locke

Zavvi is owned by The Hut Group (aka THG), along with a range of other companies that sell everything from lipstick to language services.  The Hut Group also own I Want One of Those (aka IWOOT) who have recently been selling quite a lot of games at a good price including Sagrada, Horrified, and Ticket to Ride: London.  There doesn’t appear to be any question of the authenticity of these games, but IWOOT have been selling copies of Dead of Winter, Pandemic, Carcassonne and Hogwarts Battle too and these also seem to be fakes, presumably from the same, communal supply as the Zavvi games.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
– Image by BGG contributor zgabor

Both Zavvi and IWOOT have been reluctant to acknowledge that the games are fake insisting to customers that they “do not handle fake goods”, they “source all stock direct from the brand suppliers”, and “items sold by ourselves are not counterfeit”.    Neither Zavvi nor IWOOT are known for selling counterfeits.  So, assuming it is against company policy, how their supply chain became contaminated is an interesting question and it is possible that they themselves have been the subject of a deception.  It seems unlikely that these fakes were supplied through the usual UK distribution channels, but it is possible they were bought in good faith from another supplier.

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
– Image by BGG contributor mikehulsebus

Perhaps the biggest issue here is the poor Customer Service people have reportedly received, including standard unhelpful replies or an offer of only a partial refund.  It seems persistence is the only answer, though reporting the company to the Trading Standards and/or the finance handling service (credit card company or PayPal), can help.  For those struggling with IWOOT, suggesting to Customer Services that they look at “ISM ticket 1195382” can also help (ISM is the Ivanti Service Manager ticketing system).

Boardgames in the News: Going in too DeeP

Four years ago today, the driver of a sports utility vehicle in Huntsville, Alabama had a seizure and lost control of his car.  His path took him through an Office Depot car park, across another road, through another empty car park and then a fence, and finally ploughed into The DeeP, a games and comic store.  Somehow, he narrowly missed numerous items that would have stopped the vehicle, but would have caused serious injury to the driver had he hit them.  Remarkably, nobody was seriously hurt, but the games store had plenty of cameras to show what happened to the stock…

– Video by Deep Comics & Games on youtube.com

Boardgames in the News: Fined for Playing Dominoes

The Metropolitan Police have reported that they have fined twelve people who were caught playing Dominoes.  According to their report, last Tuesday (29th December 2020), officers were called to a restaurant on the Whitechapel Road, London, where the owner initially claimed that the only people present were workers.  He tried to prevent officers from entering a darkened room where they found twelve people playing games.

– Video from met.police.uk; via youtube.com

Whitechapel is currently covered by the London-wide Tier 4 Covid restrictions which mean people “must not leave or be outside of your home or garden” without reasonable excuse.  Chief Inspector Pete Shaw said: “The rules under Tier 4 are in place to keep all of us safe, and they do not exempt people from gathering to play games together in basements.”  Tower Hamlets Local Authority are considering fining the restaurant owners for their action and all twelve gamers were issued with Fixed Penalty Notices.  Perhaps they should have considered playing games online instead…

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

Remote Gaming: Some Learning Outcomes

With the advent of Covid-19, boardGOATS, like many other groups were left with the choice of meeting online or not meeting at all.  So, like many other groups, boardGOATS chose to try to continue with meetings.  While some groups have struggled, dwindled, and eventually given up, so far, boardGOATS has managed to keep going with almost everyone still attending regularly.  We decided that we would put together this summary of some of the reasons we think we are still meeting, and a resource companion in case anyone else is in the same boat.

Setting up for online gaming
– Image by boardGOATS

The first, and by far the most important factor is that everyone has been extremely patient and very tolerant of the limitations.  Everyone is fundamentally appreciative of the interaction meeting online offers and have been amazingly understanding of the current issues.  This is essential.  Secondly, we meet once a fortnight:  boardGOATS meetings have always been alternate weeks, but this is actually quite key when meeting online.  If meetings are too frequent everyone can get very frustrated quite quickly, but too infrequent and people lose the routine.  As it is, fortnightly means everyone makes a date to make it happen as otherwise the next one would be a month away.

Noch Mal!
– Image by boardGOATS

Finally, there’s planning and organisation.  Having a plan is vital if things are to run smoothly, and smooth is essential to avoid people becoming frustrated.  The group has always had a “Feature Game“, because we’ve always been a group that takes ages to decide what to play; having a starting option helps us to get going a bit quicker.  With remote meetings, however, the “Feature Game” has become essential.  It is also important that someone takes the lead to teach if necessary, and keep things moving to stop games dragging, but also allows the all important banter to flow when possible as well.

Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
– Image by boardGOATS

The group have broadly used three different approaches to remote gaming, all underpinned by Microsoft Teams.  This choice of platform is largely immaterial, but our decision was made early on because of possible security issues with alternatives and the hardware that some of the group were using.  Either way, this provides sound and, where required, visuals.  We always start the meeting early and then leave a place holder in front of the game camera so everyone knows which screen to pin in advance.  In our case we usually use a stuffed panda doing something humourous, but a game box would suffice too.

The three different approaches to remote gaming we have used have been:

  • A real-life game hosted at one location, shared through Teams.
    This works well, but really only for relatively simple games like Second Chance, HexRoller or Noch Mal!, though we’ve played Cartographers and Troyes Dice as well.  It turns out that “Roll and Write” type games work exceptionally well, but other games are possible too.  The most complicated game we’ve played using this method is Las Vegas/Las Vegas Royale, which is one of the group’s favourites, but this is right on the limit of what is possible.  The key is that players need to be able to see the whole game layout with all the information.  For this, the resolution of the camera is important, but also that of the screen used for displaying it at the other end.  Video compression by the platform feeding the data can also be an issue.  Lighting is absolutely critical too—good lighting makes all the difference.
    Main Advantage:  We’ve found this feels most like playing a “real” game.
    Main Disadvantages:  One person/location does most of the manipulation, and there is a  complexity limitation.
    Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale
  • A virtual game on Tabletop Simulator manipulated by a small number of people , shared with everyone else through Teams.
    Some people can’t install software on their computers and for others sand-box type environments like Tabletop Simulator are too complex.  Piping a virtual game through Teams is a sort of half-way house.  To make this work, the person “hosting” has to set the game up with the camera view set to “overhead” with everything in view, and leave it there.  Then they share this screen through their meeting platform (in our case, Microsoft Teams).  Again, this means there is a limit on the complexity of the game:  the most complex games we’ve played using this method are Camel Up and Finstere Flure (aka Fearsome Floors)These have worked quite well, but it’s a bit more impersonal and relies on a small number of people operating the Simulator to make the game work.  Downtime is a bit of an issue too for turn based games.  For these reasons, this has been the least popular method for our group.
    Main Advantage:  We can modify and play slightly more complex games to our own house-rules.
    Main Disadvantages:  People need to be comfortable with the software and there are limitations caused by the stability of the platform as well as there being a steep learning curve for those who are not used to playing computer games.
    Tsuro on Tabletop Simulator
  • An online game played on a website (e.g. Board Game Arena) with audio provided by Teams.
    These are great because they allow players to do things like draw cards from a shared deck and keep them hidden until they play them.  This is a fairly fundamental aspect of many games and enables games like Saboteur which would not otherwise be possible.  There is a limited range of games available though, and there is no scope for modifying the game either (adding extra players or altering the end-game conditions, for example).  On the other hand, the software does a lot of the up-keep and can make even quite advanced things possible.  For example, without Board Game Arena to do the maths, we would never have discovered the delightful madness that is the “Professional Variant” of 6 Nimmt! (which recently won the 2020 Golden GOAT at our annual GOAT Awards).   It does feel very much like playing a computer game though.
    Main Advantages:  Very low maintenance and higher complexity games are possible including those with “hidden information”.
    Main Disadvantages:  Everyone needs to have an account on the platform and a device, and the games are restricted to those that are available and the rules as implemented, in particular, player counts.
    Saboteur on Board Game Arena

 

Each of the different modes has their limitations, but we’ve found that by mixing them up we avoid getting fed up with any specific issue.

One of the biggest challenges boardGOATS has is that we have been playing as a group of up to ten.  This is because we are all friends, even though many of us only know each other through the fortnightly meetings.  If the group were to break into two or more parts it would likely be along the lines of game “weight”, which would mean some people would never play together and it could be divisive.  This only works because those who prefer more complex games are extremely patient and understanding.  Ultimately, as a group, we feel the social aspect is the most important thing at the moment, much more important than the quality of the gaming.  We’ll definitely make sure we play lots of more complex games when we finally return to our beloved Horse and Jockey though.

The Horse and Jockey
– Image by boardGOATS

Golden GOAT Award Winners – 2020

Usually, just before Christmas, the boardGOATS meet for food, have a bit of a party, and decide the winners of the GOAT Awards.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible this year of course, but we still had a bit of a party online with festive treats for everyone, and chose our favourite game of the year.  As in previous years, we awarded two prizes:  the Golden GOAT for our favourite game and the “GOAT Poo” award for our least favourite.  As last year, everyone had three points to hand out for the Golden GOAT Award (plus a bonus if wearing Festive Attire), and everyone could nominate up to two individual games for the GOAT Poo Prize.

Terraforming Mars: Hellas & Elysium
– Image by boardGOATS

This year, the unanimous winner of the GOAT Poo was Covid and its effect on 2020.  As this wasn’t a game though, Camel Up officially took the GOAT Poo on a tie break.  Terraforming Mars won the unofficial “Marmite award”, just escaping the GOAT Poo, but also coming fourth overall for the Golden GOAT.  Kingdomino made the podium and last year’s winner, Wingspan, was runner up.  The winner though, was 6 Nimmt!.

Golden GOAT - 2020
– Image by boardGOATS

Although 6 Nimmt! is an old game, this year we’ve played it on Board Game Arena at the end of almost every meeting, and it has provided so much fun and entertainment in a year that has otherwise been sorely lacking in that regard.  Certainly, moment of the year went to Lime accidentally joining a game of 6 Nimmt! with a bunch of Frenchmen, but that is just one of many memorable moments we’ve had with it.  Since discovering the “Professional Variant” the game has been rejuvenated for us too, so it seemed an entirely appropriate win for a strange gaming year.

6 Nimmt! on Board Game Arena
– Image by boardGOATS
from boargamearena.com

Boardgames in the News: A Case Study of a Counterfeit Game

With Christmas just round the corner, there is a rush to buy gifts while wallets are squeezed and time is short—exactly the circumstances where counterfeiters flourish.  Previously, we commented on how reports of counterfeit games had been increasing and highlighted some of the key features to look out for.  Counterfeiting is a problem that affects a wide range of games including family friendlies like Ticket to Ride: Europe, Azul and 7 Wonders, but also more specialist fare like Terraforming Mars and Deep Sea Adventure.  Since then, a member of the boardGOATS group accidentally acquired a counterfeit copy of The Game of Life, which we thought would make a useful case study of some of the things to look out for and provide a timely reminder of the problem.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

The Game of Life is of particular interest because there are have been many different versions and editions over the years.  This means it can be hard to spot whether a copy is a fake even if there is a genuine copy to hand.  In this particular case, the first and most obvious problem is the complete lack of a brand name or logo anywhere on the box or the components.  The English edition is published by Milton Bradley (now Hasbro), or Winning Moves in the USA, but none of this appears anywhere on the box.  Presumably this is to avoid falling foul of “Brand Piracy” laws, but if the counterfeiters think that makes their products legal, they are very wrong.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

This is not the only indicator with this copy.  In this example, the font on the cards use western characters from a Chinese font set—these almost look like old fashioned type-writer script without serifs.  This is very unlikely to be a design choice for a genuine western board game and also don’t match the fonts elsewhere.  Additionally, the cards have squared off corners, which is now relatively unusual for modern cards in western games.  In contrast, the rules card has cut corners (and a western font), but has “nibs” where it has been punched from a larger piece of card.  The corners and “nibs” are not confirmation of a counterfeit in themselves, but would not be expected in quality product.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

Other aspects that make this copy of The Game of Life look suspicious are associated with component quality.  For example, the game board is very thin card stock, poorly folded and the edges are not wrapped with tape or similar.  Again, these do not necessarily mean that this is a counterfeit copy: component quality does sometimes change between print-runs and it is very possible that the publisher has decided to make changes for this edition.  It is often indicative though and shows how counterfeit copies, which this certainly is, can be of inferior quality.

The Game of Life
– Image by boardGOATS

This copy of The Game of Life was bought in good faith, but came from an online auction seller.  Some of these sellers have been trading for many years and provide great deals and an excellent service, others not so much and it is not always easy to tell the difference.  The bottom line though, is the only way to guarantee that a product is genuine, is to buy from a reputable seller.

Boardgames in the News: The Truth about Covid and Board Games at Christmas

Over the last couple of days, the Government’s  Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) are widely reported to have advised people to avoid playing board games this Christmas.  This has been covered by Metro, The Mirror, and The Sun, but also more reputable sources including The Evening Standard, Sky News and The BBC.  This is obviously very bad news for an industry at a time when they would be expecting to maximise their annual sales and instead are struggling.  It would also seem to be at odds with the WHO advice from April this year, which encouraged the playing of games while people were confined to their homes.  So, did SAGE really say that playing games at Christmas will put older people at risk,?

Dixit on Killing Eve
– Image from bbc.co.uk

It is hard to find, but the original article (archived) seems to be one published on 26th November entitled, “EMG and SPI-B:  Mitigating risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission associated with household social interactions“.  It is sixteen pages long and is a report summarising current evidence on how to mitigate risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, with a particular focus on activities in the home when hosting a small number of visitors or larger family celebrations.

Article on Christmas Games & Covid
– Image by boardGOATS from gov.uk

The report extensively analyses the risks in such gatherings and ways these can be mitigated, including avoiding physical contact, and the difficulties associated with gatherings in a crowded, potentially poorly ventilated area, where people are sharing facilities.  The section that covers games is in the appendix, where there is a table covering “Behaviours and Activities”.  This examines a range of scenarios and how transmission may occur.  Games get a mention under “Activities involving fomites” (objects which are likely to carry infection):

“Games that may be traditionally played such as board games, cards, etc, giving of gifts, sharing of objects and vessels during religious observances. Direct evidence for fomite transmission is limited, however viral RNA has been found on high touch surfaces in close proximity to infected people and there is evidence that shared cigarettes and drinking vessels are associated transmission.”

It continues:

“Risks can be reduced through substituting activities for those that minimise sharing of objects, for example through playing quiz-based games rather than those which involved lots of shared game pieces. Any objects which are likely to have direct contact with the mouth pose a particularly high risk.”

So, far from suggesting people should avoid playing board games, the original document indicates the chance of transmission by playing games is small as most people don’t suck the pieces.  Further, this is in the context of people spending a significant amount of time in the same household, in a small space, and sharing other facilities and food so there are many, much higher risks.  Therefore, the bottom line is that if you are sharing Christmas with someone who has the virus, you are likely to caught from them it long before you get out your copy of Pandemic.

Pandemic: Contagion
– Image by boardGOATS

Boardgames in the News: Learning to Drive in Sierra Leone

In the UK, there are two significant hurdles to learning to drive:  the theory test and the practical examination.  In Sierra Leone, there is a third step, playing the board game.  The game is called The Driver’s Way and is a “Roll and Move” type game where players to roll traffic-light-themed dice and move model cars around a board.  The game aims to teach learners the rules of the road in a more entertaining way than standard textbooks.

The Driver's Way
– Image from autoevolution.com

Sierra Leone is a country with limited infrastructure where road fatalities are high.  The creator of the game, police chief Morie Lenghor, said that ignorance of the highway code is the root cause of most crashes, and that “most drivers don’t even understand half the road signs”.  Learners are recommended to spend a few months practicing with the game, which costs less than £10 (although that doesn’t take into account differences in living costs and earning power).

Eight is Great – Happy Birthday to Us!

Eight Today

BoardGOATS is Eight Years Old Today!

Although it doesn’t feel “Great” this year, given the challenges we are all currently facing, it is perhaps even more of an achievement that we are still going.  Although we are not able to meet properly at the Horse and Jockey in Stanford-in-the-Vale, the group is still going. Five of those who were at the first meeting are still turning up fortnightly, and we are all patiently sitting through the progression of “Roll and Write” games and challenges of Tabletop Simulator that games nights have now turned into.  Let’s hope next year we can celebrate in person, and with our friends at the Jockey!