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More Awards

RANDOM MUSINGS on the fin-de-millénaire games scene . . .

16 January 2000 . . . Just announced are a new set of game awards, this time by a bunch calling themselves the Strategy Gaming Society. I'm not even including a link to their site because I don't wish to help them waste their own and everyone else's time with yet another arbitrary set of awardings. Already there exist the two major German awards, at least five different sets in gaming magazines plus at least two different sets awarded at gaming conventions, not to mention the various online awardings. All of them have one thing in common: they are complete footballs to be argued and fought over, generating quite a bit of heat and not much light. Oh, and every one of course proclaims itself to be different and untrammeled by the same flaws that afflict the rest. The reality is that they are all thus afflicted. Meanwhile, all of the energy being put into these awards could be put to much better uses. Where are all the game analyses and strategy articles for example? Scarce as hen's teeth. Many of these same people don't even bother to vote in the Top 100 Games Survey, which is at least attempting a useful and different service in trying to get an overall wide consensus about what is quality and what is not. Methinks people are caught in a carousel of award giving and it's time someone said enough is enough. . . . Speaking of rides, have you taken a trip on the new Stephensons Rocket yet? There seems to be considerable discussion on whether this Knizia offering is in fact a "railroad game", since in fact it does include railroads, and, invitingly, in a setting not previously visited: George Stephenson's early efforts. Well, it must be some invitation, for some. Sure, this game is a railroad game, except for a few minor details:

  • Mergers allow a smaller company to swallow a larger one. Time-Warner could take over AOL in this game.
  • All stock shares cost the same amount, i.e. zero pounds sterling, regardless of company size and success.
  • In a merger, any odd number of shares is lost. If a share represents a thousand real life shares, then in this game a merger means five hundred of your shares are simply thrown away.
  • Anyone can buy into a company and immediately start determining its direction.
  • Train lines often go in nonsensical directions that would never even be considered, much less built, in real life.
  • Stations are built in the middle of nowhere and are generally uncoordinated with the railroad lines.
  • Players receive money for being the most to build into others' stations which does not seem to reflect any reality.
    Hmmm, maybe we should call it a "Rocket Game"? Not to say it isn't a great one – it may well be – but a railroad game? If you change the theme into say, a bug's life, not one in ten would be saying it reminded them of a railroad game. On the other hand, a game like Auf Achse which is not about railroads at all but trucking, always reminds everyone of a railroad game. Actually, if someone wants to know whether they will like this game, a better indicator is not how they feel about the true railroad games (Railway Rivals, Empire Builder series, Silverton, Rails Through the Rockies, TrainSport series), but whether they enjoy Acquire. Sure, we can call it a railroad game, and then throw in Express, Freight Train, Union Pacific and even Monopoly, but then what was the point of inventing a term "railroad game" in the first place? So let's agree not to water everything down until useless, shall we? . . .


    Please forward any comments and corrections to Rick Heli