Episode 102 – CoolBoardGames Inc.
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In our one hundred and second episode, we talk about the games we’ve been playing lately. We reflect on Escape: The Curse of the Temple, which we reviewed 100 Episodes Ago. We’re joined by Jake and Danielle of Draft Mechanic as we design some games in our second CoolBoardGames Inc. segment and we announce the winner of our contest for you to win a copy of the Church Vs Empire Exceed Season 2 box.
This episode is sponsored by The Quiver Card Case & Board Game Bliss
Summer time! (again?) – 0:41
Explorers of the North Sea – 3:20
Deadpool Vs The World – 10:30
Santa Maria – 18:28
Decrypto – 30:20
100 Episodes Ago We Reviewed – Escape: The Curse of the Temple – 38:10
The Quiver Card Case Sponsorship (Amazon.com link or Amazon.ca link) – 49:36
CoolBoardGames Inc. with special guests Jake and Danielle of Draft Mechanic – Dice Rolling: The Card Game: The Role Playing Game – Adventures in Paper Town – A Fold20 System – 51:26
Board Game Bliss Sponsorship – 1:52:30
Contest – Exceed Season 2 Church Vs Empire – 1:53:29
I am Eilif Svensson, co-designer of Santa Maria and co-founder of Aporta Games.
I want to thank Boards Alive for their review of Santa Maria in this episode.
The reason why I want to leave a comment here is to put things in a little different perspective.
First, I want to start out by saying that I am sorry that we obviously have offended ´some people by publishing Santa Maria. That was really not the intention.
When picking theme and artwork for a game, it’s not easy to know what will be sensitive/offensive to players. However, we knew that Santa Maria could be sensitive for some. That’s why we included a background history in the box. But it’s hard to know HOW sensitive it could be. The following examples are meant to show how difficult it is to know what’s sensitive or not. These are not meant as excuses for what we publish and how we publish it, but it is just to put it in a different light.
Example 1: The building of the transcontinental railways in the 19th century in the West, as well as the gold rush in this area, was the start of many of the Indian wars after the Civil War. As a consequence, white settlers were placed into direct conflict for the land and resources of the Great Plains, which Indians had been granted as their homeland. Preserving the Indian lives and their way of living were overshadowed by the white man’s “thirst” for gold and development in the West. During the 19th century, Indian population dropped by half a million, mainly because of the Indian wars. As a result of the Indian wars, natives were put into reservations, killing their last hope of living a life as an Indian. There’s lot to mention when it comes to this period, but please see the documentary “The West” on Netflix for further reference/documentation. It’s really good!
How many games aren’t about railroad building in the US and the gold rush? And the box covers are often cartoony or at least “light hearted”. Remember that these events happened in quite recent times (150 years ago), and not 500 years ago, as the colonization period. I have looked through many forums and threads related to games with such themes, and I have not found any concerns or discussions about these themes (railroad building in the US and the gold rush) being sensitive or seen as an “attack” on Indians.
Example 2: Related to the above, Buffalo Bill is known for killing thousands of buffalos. The official story was that he should supply railroad construction workers with meat. Some one claims that he was chosen by the government to kill the foundation of life for Indians – that he was part of cynical plan in order to make the Indians give up eventually. It does not matter what is true – these operations destroyed the Indians. Indian life was centered around the buffalo. After the Indian wars, Buffalo Bill made a living out of being a showman, displaying episodes from the Indian wars. He was called the “Indian fighter”. He is seen as a hero and a legend, receiving a Medal of Honor for his fight in the Indian wars. He is glorified in popular culture. Maybe I have not searched long enough, but I have had a hard time finding people being offended by Wild West themes in general, and games featuring Buffalo Bill specifically.
Example 3: As they mention in this episode, people don’t want to be playing the “bad guy/side”. However, it does not seem so hard to be the bad guy in Viking themed games, pillaging cities and towns, or being the leader of the Roman Empire, exploiting slaves to build up their empire. Almost the whole Roman Empire was built by slaves. Even the gladiators were slaves, only for the purpose of entertaining the higher class.
I hope that these three examples make it easier to understand why it’s hard to understand and predict how sensitive a theme that refers to a similar impact (like colonization for the Indians), could be.
Knowing what we know now, I am the first to admit that we could have done things differently in this specific case, especially with the happiness tokens. When it comes to the choice of theme, I am not so sure.
Anyway, we constantly learn, and I am sure that we will improve and hopefully expand our company, which currently consists of two men, working part-time.
Personally, I truly believe it should be ok to play games with these kinds of themes, and that board games should be treated as any other media, just like movies and literature. I am convinced that if all future board games should be set in space or on a farm for the benefit of players who cannot take in the reality of their ancestors, I think the board game industry will experience its slow death. On the other hand, how to tone and balance the artwork up against the theme is of course crucial and important, and I think we will do this better in the future.
I want to end this comment by saying that we are welcoming these kinds of discussions/arguments. What I’m questioning here is how consequent we are when judging a specific theme.
…and yes, Santa Maria was the Columbus’ ship☺
All the best,
Thanks for jumping in with a comment about your reasoning behind the theme of the game. I understand that there are many problematic themes in board games. And yes, people make exceptions in their own minds. That’s why people can enjoy games where they play as gangsters or the Jason-esque killer in Last Friday.
I could argue my perspective about historically themed games, but I have done that before when we talked about games like Mombasa and Puerto Rico. Ultimately for me personally, it’s about exploitation of people and cultures, and games that focus their themes around an era in which a lot of that took place. Using THAT theme as part of the mechanics in a game is frustrating for me, especially when there are so many unique themes that could be used in games.
We appreciate that you took time out of your day to jump on here and share your thoughts.
I completely agree, Aaron! I think the big difference is how the controversial topic is handled in a game.
For instance, when we play Colt Express, it’s a little bothersome that the Native American has a special power which makes her a better thief. We also aren’t huge fans of her being a bit whitewashed and revealing. But this is not a core element of the game. We can leave her out of the game when 5 or less people are playing, and I personally will grab her character card if there are 6 of us and just deal with it.
It would be a completely different issue if a core element of the game was to exploit the Native Americans in some way to either progress, get bonuses, etc. While it was a part of history, it’s not a pretty part and not one we should celebrate or recognize with anything resembling acceptance.
The discussion on the podcast reminded me of our experience with Ladies & Gentlemen. I knew it had some misogynist elements in it, but after watching the Shut Up & Sit Down review, I felt that it would present it all in a fun, satirical way that we could all enjoy. We played it with two other couples, and I can say that we didn’t have quite as pleasant of an experience as SU&SD did. None of the women really seemed to like it – some of them openly stated they hated the game. One of the guys was not too happy, either. I was working VERY hard to make it fun and light-hearted, and so my friend and I were making ridiculous jokes about our servants and their having to do ridiculous tasks for us. It was funny to me, and they laughed a little, but in the end the whole thing really just served as a reminder of how ridiculous that society was and how happy we are that it doesn’t work like that anymore.
I guess to wrap up, I would comment on Eilif’s statement that it is difficult to determine what will be controversial. I feel like that’s where designers and developers must seek out a diverse group of people from whom to draw feedback. Our hobby tends to be very white and very male, and so it can be difficult at times to get a variety of experiences and viewpoints from within the easily contacted board gaming community. I think the board game industry must be sure that it makes a concerted effort to include people of all backgrounds and cultures in its playtesting, designing, and hiring practices.
I definitely prefer Escape over Magic Maze, though I enjoy both. The big difference for me is the element of silence in Magic Maze. It has been a non-starter for most people, and with others they are very hesitant to make it harder because they are so uncomfortable with the silence. I would also argue that the ‘accidental cheating’ (which isn’t that big of a deal, IMO) is MUCH worse in Magic Maze because it’s much more difficult to let another player know what they are doing wrong because you can’t talk. There’s also all the ‘cheating’ that occurs with hand signals, pointing, and more that occurs in Magic Maze.
In summary…… you’re wrong. 🙂