Spotlight on Games > Interviews
Oriol Garcia plays games in Barcelona.

March 25, 2006. During this wintry time our world tour pauses a while in sunny Spain where Oriol Garcia has been good enough to share something of his life and games. It was interesting to learn about how one can be paid to play board games, as well as to find out what's happening with the games scene there and to get to know him. I began by asking Oriol to tell us a little bit about himself and where he lives ...

My name's Oriol Garcia. Pronounced something like wo-ree-all. It's a typical Catalan name, which means I'm from Catalonia. For those out there who don't know what Catalonia is, and without delving into controversial political issues, it just means that it is a nation within a State. By 'nation' I mean we have a different language, culture, and historical background than that of the 'common' State, this being Spain. I live in Terrassa, a not-so-small town near Barcelona, though I've spent some years living here and there. I work as a freelance translator, especially in simultaneous translation, although I also work with some publishing companies both with written translation and as a part-time journalist. Since I still manage to have some time left, I also work as a professor at a translation and interpretation college.

Life & Games in my case have gone pretty hand-in-hand. When I was a child I started gaming with the usual stuff, i.e. Ludo, Checkers, Domino, etc. and like so many others I soon moved to things like Mastermind, Monopoly, Risk and so on. From those days, probably around 12 or something, I also recall 'designing' (if this is the appropriate term for those early efforts) my very first games. These were simple and straightforward affairs full of commonplaces, like the game based on the racing lightcycles from Tron or the one so pompously titled The Great Hunt of the Big White Buffalo. Obviously, no one played these games but me & myself, though once or twice I managed to lure my younger sister into trying them. It's also from these days that I remember getting into some other not-that-mainstream games, like En busca del Imperio Cobra, Distrito 21 or Sinai. Most of these, if not all, were manufactured by the Spanish toy company CEFA, kind of a watered-down version of the early Avalon Hill, and whilst most of these games were based upon simple mechanisms – i.e. dice rolling for movement or rock-paper-scissors combats – there are still some of them that bring fond memories to me and probably to many Spanish grown-ups. Among them, I keep a soft spot for a game called El enigma de la pirámide – 'The Secret of the Pyramids' would be a likely translation – that included so many gadgets that it would surely deserve a geeklist of his own. The maze-building and boulder-throwing parts were probably the finest.

intricate game board
"El enigma de la pirámide, a family affair with loads of
dice-rolling, but yet quite entertaining in those pre-Euro days."
With this criminal report, it's not surprising that soon I was involved in RPGing, CCGing and all that pernicious stuff that gobbled up my time as a teenager. I invested a precious time of my life founding a local gaming club together with some friends (indeed, the very first role-playing and board gaming club in our town) and spending most evenings there. It is there that I started to get in touch with more 'involving' systems, like Civilization, Titan, Junta or Star Warriors, to name but a few. Also, war gaming became a habit, with Flat Top and Third Reich topping the list.

During that time I kept adding rules and modifications to our games, as well as devising new mechanisms to recycle boards and pieces of some others so that they could be turned into something more enjoyable. Eventually I was more into board gaming and war gaming than into role-playing, partly because I had grown a bit tired of seeing how people seemed to be more interested in character advancement and amassing money and equipment than in the interpretative part. That to me seemed to miss the whole point. Anyway, as time went by and daily responsibilities began to take its toll, it became apparent that I could no longer be that involved in such time-demanding games (no more The Longest Day, sorry). Luckily, 'German games' (or 'Eurogames' or whatever you may call it) came to the rescue a few years ago bringing new life into my gaming habits. First it was Settlers, introduced to me by a Dutch friend, and soon came many more. Among my current favourites I would place Attika, Carolus Magnus, Citadels, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, Medici, Puerto Rico and Vinci, but probably if you asked me tomorrow I would come up with a completely different list.

All in all, sorry for this definitely too long introduction. Maybe it is because I think that the gaming background of a person tells a lot about him/her. Or maybe I just got drifted away by nostalgia ... (Oops! I've just re-read your question and I realize I didn't even say a word on how I like to spend my time! So I'll force myself into brevity now –books, films and music.)
headshot with some games
Oriol & part of his collection

2. Say, to an American your name reminds of baseball. Do you realize there is an American team named after you? ;)
Indeed, it's not a Spanish name, but a Catalan one. And Oriol is a typical Catalan name, more or less. It is the name of the little yellow bird, by the way.

Yep, I know about the Baltimore Orioles. Not that I've seen them playing, but I remember their name and logo is taken from my bird-name :)

3. Aha, you are well informed! Where do you play your games? In homes? Are there public places to play? Conventions?
I usually play at home, where I meet with some friends, or at the gaming club, where you can always go and expect to find someone willing to play day or night. Indeed, gaming clubs and associations are the usual space for geek-gathering in Spain, with hobby stores coming at a close second place. However, the 'problem' with most hobby stores is that they are strongly focused in their niche market, i.e. CCGs, RPGs and tabletop war games, and therefore there isn't much room there for introducing or playing German games. I guess it will take a few more years for these stores to realise there is a certain potential for growth in there and to start demoing and playing them at their premises, but all in all I wouldn't expect shops to replace clubs or, for that matter, homes when it comes down to meet & play. If you feel like it, you can also go to the local pub or café and bring your games in there (it'll save you all the dish-washing, after all). However, in these cases it's best to make sure that your weird hobby is not perceived as a threat by the local attendance or that your low time/drinking ratio is not seen as a danger to the normal cash flow of the business. Nevertheless, when people go out and feel like playing they tend to rely on the average stock of pub games – cards, Poker, dice, Chess, Domino. If you're lucky you may even find some places with Ludo (!),Trivial Pursuit (!!) or Connect Four (!!!) among their assortment, but you shouldn't expect anything beyond that.

Regarding conventions there have been some good news recently with the return of the long gone-but-not-forgotten GenCon. I guess this comeback has mainly to do with two reasons. Firstly, Magic: the Gathering (M:tG) is still alive and kicking in Spain and, like it or not, it has created a momentum – both for itself and for many other much more ephemeral CCGs – which has managed to gather together a host of gamers. Secondly, some publishing companies (most specifically, Devir) have started peering at the German games success abroad and begun to probe the Spanish market (with exceeding caution for my taste). Since the results so far seem to be quite satisfactory, now they're also interested in promoting these type of events that provide a showcase for their products. Anyway, you won't see much there apart from Catan, Citadels and the usual tabletop war games ... Still, at least in my view, GenCon can give a considerable boost to the gaming scene in Spain if it manages to catch the eye of all that throng of CCGers and innocent bystanders and turn them into potential board gamers. Unfortunately, apart from this and the usual M:tG tournaments, convention-wise we're still living in the desert.
German games on several shelves
"A snapshot of my collection. In a lower shelf I have
some other games as well (Modern Art, Magna
Grecia, Edel Stein & Reich, Pizarro
others). All in all, I have over a hundred games,
most of them bought at German on-line stores."

4. Game clubs are not all that usual. Can you tell us more about them? Where do they meet, how formal are they, how large, how many, how do they recruit, etc?
Well, don't get me wrong, it's not that game clubs are that common in Spain, but at least you can expect to find some in medium and large cities. I guess the main problem, however, would be spotting them. People at the local hobby store or at community and youth district centres can point you in the right direction if you are looking for a specific game club (i.e. focused on German games, war games, tabletops and so on), but the most reliable source would be word-of-mouth and gamers themselves.

The club is usually in a small or medium-sized rented place, where gamers can meet anytime. Attendance may vary, though. While some are crowded with people seven days a week, mostly in the evenings, others are mainly used only during the weekend. This also depends on the "formality" of gamers themselves – some may prefer to preset a timetable for main events and games, while some others will tend towards a more improvised matter, with games arranged on a daily basis depending on the people showing up. Anyway, a common trait is that most (if not all) game clubs are publicly subsidised. That is, every city council has a specific allocation for community and youth activities that club and associations alike may tap into in order to get public funding – as long as they can prove that they are performing a social activity that is also beneficial for the neighbourhood or district. As a compensation, clubs and associations must organise some kind of public events that show their support and interest in promoting their activities within their community. In the case of game clubs these events may include things like live RPGs, game demoing and so on. However, this public funding usually does not cover all the running expenses of a club, and therefore members must pay an annual or monthly fee (normally, quite affordable). Also, a club must have some written articles of association specifying objectives, posts, proceedings and rules for acceptance of new members. However, this is more of a formal obligation than anything else – rules and proceedings are quite general in nature and are only resorted to in very specific issues while new members are usually accepted as long as they can show a minimum interest in the hobby. All in all, a game club will have at least around 20 members (less than this, and you'd better call it just a bunch of friends), while anything beyond 50 or 60 individuals may far surpass the logistic capabilities of the association.

5. Wow, it's almost like you're being paid to play games! I bet a lot of people would like to set that up in their own countries! But where do people acquire the games in the first place? Are they carried in game or general shops? Also, are the instructions translated from German or from English? Is there any kind of database web site supporting translations?
Mmm ... "being paid to play games". I never thought about it this way, but I guess there is some truth in it. Anyway, public funding for clubs and associations alike is a subsidy that most city councils grant, but of which many are unaware. Even here in Spain, people don't know much about it. Obviously there is some paperwork to be done and some will run away at the sound of 'bureaucracy', but I tell you, it's worth it.

Buying games can be indeed more complicated. At least in some areas. If it's German games you want, you must go to specialised stores. General stores or department stores are very limited in this regard and at most you will only find the Spanish edition of Settlers and, if lucky, some other 'best-seller' that has been fully translated, but you shouldn't count on even that.

players at the table
"A game of Gnadenlos!, by Klaus Teuber. It found some early
supporters in our game club and it still hits the table every now
and then."
Store-wise the scene is quite bleak indeed. Only a few game stores exist and only in major cities, and apart from certain exceptions their assortment is quite limited. Even worse, since most games are imported, be it from within Europe (Germany, France, Italy or UK) or from the US, prices are really high when compared to other countries. Only recently have there begun to appear Spanish editions of well-known games, such as Settlers, A Game of Thrones, Citadels or Knizia's Lord of the Rings, but even these Spanish editions are as expensive as the imported copies (don't ask me why). Thus, on-line shopping, though still not very widespread, is very helpful in this matter. Ordering from the other side of the Atlantic can sometimes be more economical than buying in specialised stores, even after adding the significantly high shipping costs. Besides, language in this case is not a big issue since a lot of gamers here can grasp English to a certain extent.

On the other hand, shipping costs from Germany are considerably lower, but language can be a true handicap. Thus, looking for language-independent games is sometimes a must when ordering from Deutschland. That, or resorting to translated player aids or paste-ups. However, availability of Spanish rules is not usually much of a problem. For instance, if you buy at specialised stores you'll find that some games carry a free copy of the rules in Spanish. Nothing exceptional, just a bunch of stapled papers with no illustrations and hardly readable, but useful nevertheless. Also, has some game rules translated into Spanish (even into Catalan!), mostly a labour of love from gamers, but as far as I know there is no specific website compiling or providing board game rules translated into Spanish. Which probably would be a good idea now that you mention it ...

6. Of course, there must be a Spanish edition of Catan, though I never thought of it. What's its title and who publishes it? Are the materials basically the same as the German edition or has the publisher made their own? Any chance it is called the Colonistas of Catalonia? ;)
Ha, ha ... Well, the invasion of Catalonia by Castilians took place many centuries ago, so The colonists of Catalonia would be just an old expansion to the same old game ... ;) However, there is a funny story about the Cataneans here. Even though it took a long time for them to settle in Spain (I think it was in 2002) when they came, they came in force. Indeed, there was a time when at least three different versions co-existed – for some unknown reason -- in stores. One was called Los descubridores de Catán, which had two different boxes though the contents seemed to be exactly the same. Indeed, in one of the versions there was the label "As seen on TV" though no one I ever asked had ever seen a Settlers ad on TV! We are far from board game commercials in Spain. And then there was another one called Los colonos de Catán, which in the end has managed to achieve the official status. The materials from this version are the same as in the new German edition, i.e. plastic settlements and roads instead of the nice wooden bits of the original version. This edition, as well as the other editions translated into Spanish I mentioned before (A Game of Thrones, Citadels and so on) are being published by Devir, a company born in Brazil with subsidiaries in Latin America, Portugal, Italy and Spain. Their latest publishing is the Spanish version of War of the Ring, known here as Guerra del Anillo.
players discussing the rules
"Rules explanations form an intrinsic part of each
gaming night. There's always someone, somewhere,
who hasn't played this or that game."
7. Do you have any ideas how many people in your country are playing new strategy games? Any idea what the demographics are like? What's the overlap with RPG, CCG, war games, computer games, video games, comic books, anime? Are there any special reasons why gaming is popular or not there?
Well, to be honest I have no idea on how many people are playing these games. Or rather, giving a figure would be just a wild guess on my part. I'd only risk saying that numbers in big cities (i.e., Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao) must be in the hundreds at most, while in small ones you should probably count by the dozens. I don't think also there are many people playing new strategy games in small towns, but I guess that can probably be said of any country in the world. All in all, maybe throughout Spain there are between 10,000 and 20,000 people playing such games (again, this is just a wild guess based on my store visits, Internet browsing, known game clubs in the surrounding area and, obviously, word of mouth).

If I had to draw the Identikit of the average Spanish eurogamer (by the way, I use this oversimplified term to refer to these kind of games only because it's shorter, not because it's necessarily the most appropriate) I'd say is a male between 20 and 30 something, not necessarily single, middle-class and usually with a foot or two well lodged in some other geeky areas, be it war games, RPGs or CCGs. Computer games and video games, on the other hand, are pretty much widespread across all young and not-that-young people, even though console games may be regarded as a bit more childish in nature and therefore would have fewer points of contact with this average eurogamer. Comic books and anime here in Spain are viewed in similar terms, that is, childish hobbies that have grown up with the passing of time and therefore don't deserve any longer that look of contempt they got some years ago, while manga is still mainly targeted to younger audiences and therefore has not achieved yet an "acceptable" status in the light of mainstream tastes. Also there is an increasing number of female gamers in this hobby, mainly because these kind of eurogames seem to have a wider appeal among the female audience than the usual geek hobby (CCGing, RPGing or war gaming fans face difficult times when the mating ritual begins).

All in all, I wouldn't say gaming is either popular or unpopular here in Spain. On the one hand, people are quite used to playing – light – board games, like Ludo, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and so on, but also more intricate card games have a wide appeal. Indeed, you can see many people of retired age doing nothing else but playing cards or Dominoes at the local pub or community centre. Also, young people may play some cards or dice when they go out at night, before going to the night club. However, it doesn't get much better than this. Light or die. Words like Settlers or Citadels are still unfathomable mysteries to the ears of the average Spaniard. And probably if you try to explain to him or her what it's all about, you'll get that look in his eyes and a likely reply in the line of 'Oh, you mean like role-playing games and all that stuff, don't you?'.

As a matter of fact, even though it may sound like a cliché, I guess we've got to blame it on the weather – "Hey, why should we stay home if we have such a nice evening?". Until you realise that just because you're going out it doesn't necessarily mean that you are having a better time than if you stayed home with your friends.

8. What can you tell us about home-grown game publishing?
Well, the prospect is quite bleak to say the least. There is no Spanish (or Catalan, for that matter ;) game design scene so far. The only board games worth mentioning have mostly derived from extraneous events. For instance, Faidutti's Terra was commissioned by the Barcelona's Forum of Cultures 2004 just as Gaudí by Oriol Comas and Jep Ferret was meant to draw on the occasion of Gaudí's International Year celebrating the 150th anniversary of the architect's birth. No wonder then that publishers seem to be more focused on translating foreign board games than in developing a home scene which, as I said, is non-existent. However, in this regard there seems to be a significant trend towards translating games into Spanish. Not only Devir, but also other companies such as Fantasy Flight and Atlas Games are starting to poke (albeit timidly) at the Spanish-speaking market. Let's hope that domestic publishing will follow sooner or later.
9. What about designers from Spain? Are any of them contributing to games in Spain or elsewhere?
Well, for that matter I don't think Spanish designers are even aware that there are other mechanics apart from roll-and-move. Honestly, we still seem to be living in prehistoric times here. Sad as it may be, I'm afraid Gaudí was only a flash in the pan. So no wonder that there is no such thing as a Spanish professional designer (though I'm sure that there are some out there working for obscure companies in obscure offices who make a living out of game designing, but their job certainly isn't worth mentioning).
10. What about traditional games? What is still played there, and by whom? Any thoughts on how board games and board game players are generally perceived?
As I intimated before, traditional games have a much wider acceptance, especially among the retired. Domino and card games are the usual stuff among them. Some of the most played card games are Rummy variants (Remigio, Chinchón) and trick-taking games (Tute, Pocha), even though some are a bit more interesting or elaborate than others. (Mus is a fine example.) A typical Catalan card game is La botifarra (literally, 'pork sausage'), a trick-taking game played by couples. Card games are also played by youngsters, though these tend to prefer dice games whenever they go out at night.

Families, on the other hand, are more into the light side of gaming – The Game of Goose, Ludo, Monopoly, and so on and so forth. So it's no wonder that board games and board game players are still perceived as "just another piece of land in the uncanny Geekdom", at least by the average adult. However, with young people you can always try arousing their curiosity ("Hey, what are those funny bits in there?"). So my guess is that if there is to be a breakthrough in "real" board gaming in Spain, it will have to come from below. The average families and the elderly, with all due respect, are too far entrenched in their minds and I wouldn't expect a change in their view or gaming habits in brief.

11. Do you play Mus yourself? With its facial signals (an idea apparently stolen for Inkognito!) it seems quite unusual and I wonder if you know any funny or interesting stories about the playing of it?
It's been a long time that I haven't played Mus. I used to, back in the university days, when some friends and I could spend hours winking eyes, raising eyebrows and nibbling at one's lips. Indeed, funny as it may be, this is not the most interesting part of Mus, but rather the team play, since you are supposed to be "playing" with the hand you presume your partner has – much as in Bridge, though in a lighter vein. However, since we played Mus mostly for fun, we used to come up with our own signs that each couple decided before the game. The problem was, as you may guess, that making up new signs each afternoon – with some beers thrown in for extra enjoyment – was way too taxing after a while. Not only were you trying to identify the other couple's signs but you were having a hard time also trying to remember which signs you had agreed to use. This led to confusion followed by hilarious moments ("I told you it was eyebrow-raising, ear-pinching and double blinking and not eyebrow-raising, double ear-pinching and double blinking, you idiot!") but also made the game (or rather, the metagame) more interesting, since you were trying to mislead the opponents' guesses and turn it to your advantage. Besides, even though there is a more or less standard set of signs for Mus players, nothing prevents you from coming up with your own, as we did. And these do not have to be restricted to facial signs; you could be using any part of your body, a given word, etc. However you want to play it, it is a game I'd highly recommend to anyone with a penchant for card games with a twist.
12. I wonder if you have any idea which of the modern strategy games seem the most popular in España? Any games which have found particular success that may surprise us living elsewhere?
As far as I can tell nothing to be amazed about, I'm afraid. The usual suspects (Settlers and Carcassonne) seem to have a punch here, with Ticket to Ride following close behind. I'm somehow surprised to see a game like Age of Mythology also being played by a significant number of board gamers, but I guess this has to do mainly with (1) the fact that it derives from a well-known computer game at a time when computer gamers in Spain are one major source of board gamers and (2) it having been translated into Spanish, which just goes to show to what extent language is an important purchase argument for people here. Also, among "connoisseurs" there seems to be a strong consideration for Puerto Rico – no wonder given that many Spanish hardcore gamers look at the ratings as the gaming benchmark. But all in all, nothing exceptional.
13. Quite a few games have been set in your country. What is your impression of them? Have any of them received special attention or popularity because of it? Are there any kind of recurring motifs, even stereotypes, in these games on which you would like to comment?
I'm afraid I haven't played many of the games appearing in this list. (By the way, you forgot to add Gaudí! You can find the walking tiles the game is based upon in Barcelona streets ;)) I have played and own El Grande and Torres, but then they both might as well be located in Scandinavia. Or in an underground colony of pink mongooses in a Jupiter moon, for that matter. Actually, this is one of the things I find most disappointing about German games – the detachment from the theme. Don't get me wrong – I adore German mechanics and love what they've been able to bring along. It's just that sometimes, just sometimes, I would like a bit more theme thrown in. (Corollary: this is the reason why Martin Wallace is my current favourite designer.)

Back to Spain and Spanish gamers, however, I think most people that play new strategy games don't feel necessarily more attracted to some of these more "abstract" games (again, Torres or El Grande) just because they are located in Spain. Indeed, some odd things happen when playing El Grande in our group, since people seem to be unable to use the proper Spanish names for the regions shown in the map and rather make a literal translation of the English names! For instance, they tend to say "Vieja Castilla" (for Old Castile) instead of "Castilla la Vieja". I keep trying them saying the proper names (call it a job habit), but boy it gets difficult. However, when it comes to more specific themes (e.g., the Spanish Civil War) some players may feel more drawn to it. Not that it attracts many people (mostly players with a war gaming background) but then it might be a tipping point for some. Just as much as an average American gamer might feel attracted towards a Civil War topic, I guess.

As for motifs, I'm a bit surprised at the lack of bullfighting themes in board games. Not that I can complain -- I don't like bullfighting at all, just like a huge minority of Spaniards, even as much as this still seems to be an exportable cliché for tourists (Note to game publishers: don't get involved with bullfighting themes – the average gamer in Spain doesn't like bullfighting.) However, I feel curious about the game Viva Pamplona (bull-racing, not bullfighting), just to see to what extent it manages to convey this frenzy, horny race.
box cover showing large bull, smoke out of nostrils, charging taunting idiotos
Viva Pamplona! (by Wolfgang Kramer and FX Schmid)

As a side note to all potential tourists: we wear no Mexican hats here (the ones with pointy tops and a brim as wide as an aircraft-carrier). As the adjective points at, these are worn in Mexico. Mexico is not Spain.

14. Viva Pamplona is a very fun game, if a bit random. On the whole I suspect you'd like it. For bull fighting, probably it's too violent for the Germans yet too inconsequential for war games companies and so falls through the cracks. But what about that old warhorse Monopoly? Is it popular in Spain? What is the name for Boardwalk and does everyone know this? Any there any other interesting artifacts about the translation?
Unfortunately Monopoly still retains its popularity in Spain, though its star is on the wane (not because people have moved into new strategy games, but rather into computer and video games instead). However, this would probably be the first word to come to any ordinary Spaniard's head if you said "board game". I used to play Monopoly back in my teenage years, but not that much – no, honestly – so I'm having a hard time remembering how things like these were even called. Actually, I don't even remember there was anything close to a Boardwalk or a Park Place! I'll have to do some Internet research on this one before giving you an answer ...

... some clicks later ... OK, so Boardwalk and Park Place are the most expensive lots in Monopoly, right? Well, then I'll give you two answers. I don't know if this is the usual thing in the US as well, but here there were two different editions, one with the streets and landmarks of Barcelona and another one with Madrid's. So depending on where you lived/played you could purchase, say, Las Ramblas or Avenida de los Reyes Católicos. Not that it added much fun, but at least it was something. I guess. (By the way, there is also a Catalan edition of Monopoly ...)

After my thorough research (see I can tell you that the Barcelona version for Park Place and Boardwalk had Balmes and Paseo de Gracia, respectively, whereas Madrid's names were Paseo de la Castellana and Paseo del Prado.

One funny thing however about Monopoly that I've seen happening around Spain is the rule about the Free Parking box. If my memory serves me well it was named Estacionamiento Gratuito, and the way we played was that certain fines (not sure if all fines) were kept in the middle of the board, and whoever landed in the Estacionamiento collected all the money piled up there. However, if there was no money left, then you had to pay something like 20,000 whatevers. I'm pretty convinced that no-one played this correctly. But hey, I don't remember anyone ever reading Monopoly's rules! Indeed, a friend of mine recently told me that he used to play by the rules, but then he had to eventually change because he was overwhelmed by the throng of players who played using this made-up rule instead. Definitely, that was a time when oral transmission in gaming was way more important than the rules in its written form.

15. Ah, so the regionalist divide extends even to board games. Paseo de Gracia, if I recall, is a fancy Barcelona Street, the equivalent of London's Bond Street or New York's Fifth Avenue. It's interesting too that even in Spain a form of that evil Free Parking variant prevails. Of course it is pervasive here in America. It reminds me that I'm starting to see similar gratuitous variants with Settlers of Catan. These variants always tend to increase the luck and make skill less important.
As if Settlers would need more luck in it ... Funny because the suggestions here seem to go the other way round, for instance, using card-draw instead of die rolls. Actually, house rules are not that common here. Even if some tinkering may be allowed as long as there is a minimum consensus about it, people prefer to stick to the written rules – which is just the other side of the coin, leading often to rule lawyering.
3 men and a woman play Goa in darkened room
"Honestly, the room is not as dark as it appears in this
picture. Otherwise we wouldn't be playing these games
so late at night, would we? Mmm... well I guess we
would anyway." – Oriol
16. Yes, trying to stick to written rules is probably safest, with the caveat you mention. Getting a bit more personal, what makes the games fun and interesting for you? What's your favorite game that few, or at least few around you, seem to like? Do you have a favorite type or type that you are best at, e.g. abstract, auction, bluff, business, tile placement, etc?
I'm afraid my answer won't be much original here. It's mostly the social aspect as well as the intellectual challenge that I'm more interested in (how many times have I heard this one before?). Nevertheless, I must admit that I tend to enjoy games where there's some limited interaction between players -- with a strong emphasis on "limited". That is, games where there are certainly some chances to harass other players' plans but without this disrupting completely their strategy. In other words, I prefer games that reward a solid strategic approach balanced with a tactical flexibility (a leftover from my war gaming days, I guess).

On the other hand, I enjoy most types of games as long as I find them good enough or, at least, if some social fun is derived from them even if they're not that good. The only exception is probably sports and pure abstract games. Not that I'm not willing to play them every now and then, but I just don't feel much involvement. Also, novel mechanics are a strong focus of attraction to me (as long as these work fine within the game structure, obviously). For instance, games like San Marco or Flaschenteufel would be only average if it were not for the innovative mechanics that are tied in (regardless whether these mechanics have much to do with the theme or not, which I believe they do brilliantly in the latter, by the way).

However, if I had to point out some favourites of mine I'd definitely go for resource management and empire-building games. Yet, I don't consider myself an aggressive player. I'm rather on the conservative side – trying to get a solid foothold through the mid-game that enables me to run for the lead in the final stretch. Still, timing is crucial in these cases, and some games may be tough nuts to crack -- Puerto Rico and St. Petersburg are the ones that come to my mind, since the flow of the game is essentially dictated by other players' actions.

I also prefer games with some limited luck thrown in, not only because I find open-info games either too abstract or terribly prone to analysis-paralysis, but basically because I like some unpredictability in gaming.

All that being said, one of the games I feel a bit underrated is Magellan (horribly translated as Pizarro & Co.). It's not necessarily in my top ten, but it's a game that manages to bundle some of the factors I appreciate – the strategic approach coupled with a need for tactical flexibility – in a very elegant way. I know that the continuous auctions and the luck of the card draw may be a bit of a drawback to some, but still I find it a really compelling game that deserves more attention.

17. What about your own involvement in games industry? Have you had any participation there?
I did play a small part indeed during the heyday of Magic:The Gathering. I demoed it for some days at a rock festival, acted as an official referee once or twice and, most of all, did the Spanish translation for the 4th Edition (if I recall correctly; indeed as my Magic days are now long past, all Editions kind of look the same to me). Apart from this and from being involved in the video game industry, I have no other participation in the gaming arena. Not that I wouldn't like to, of course.
18. Is there anything I've left out that you would like to say? And finally, what are the words for game and board game in your language?
The words for game and board game in Spanish are juego and juego de mesa respectively. The words in Catalan are joc and joc de taula.

Well, first of all thank you for interviewing me. I hope I have provided some hindsight on the Spanish/Catalan gaming scene. Also thank you for your questions, for they really forced me to put words into some topics which I hadn't considered much deeply before. And last, but not least, thanks again for putting your time and effort in keeping up this awesome website of yours. I truly consider it a must for anyone really interested in a more in-depth view to boardgaming. I especially admire the way your capsule reviews can stick to the point and yet provide an interesting and enjoyable read with so much food for thought – or digressions, as some may call them. ;)

Hey, the digressions are the most fun of all. :) Thanks very much for the kind words, Oriol, as well as the many interesting thoughts!

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