Monday, August 15, 2016

A Kickstarter has me revisit dry erase as a tool

Since I'm on the Smallbox Games mailing list, I found out when they started the Akua Kickstarter. 

What immediately struck me what that Akua consists of the board and four dry erase markers instead of cards and tokens and other bits.

My first reaction as that this was a brilliant idea. It cuts down on storage space and how many pieces you have to keep track of. Between three cats and a small child, it's really easy for little cubes and meeples and cards and cardboard discs to get scattered and lost. Just having a board and some markers, markers you can buy just about anywhere to replace, is a lot easier to deal with.

But then I realized that it wasn't that original or unusual to use dry erase or the equivalent. Crayon Rail games have basically been doing that since the early 1970s. Party games like Wits and Wagers or Say Anything make dry erase a critical part of the of the game.

And there are already games where the board and the markers are the entire game. The latest version of Sid Sackson's Beyond Tic Tac Toe, published as Games of Art, is the first one that comes to mind. The silly little golf game Par Out Golf is another. 

And, now that I actually remember my experiences with board games and dry erase markers, I also understand why this isn't going to replace physical components. In all honestly, dry erase markers create a sloppy and messy looking board, in comparison to wooden or plastic or cardboard pieces. You have an actual mess to clean up at the end of the game. Physical pieces give you a tactical experience and a snazzier look. And, let's face it, chrome is fun.

Which is not to say that dry erase games don't have their place. They are good for travel or playing without a table or playing in a confined space. And, speaking as someone who has cats who like to scamper across boards or lie down on top of them, not having a bunch of parts to keep track of can be a real blessing.

Mind you, the same can be said for using a tablet. Still, it's nice to have options, including options that don't involve electricity.

Akua does bring something new to the table. Almost every dry erase game I've seen or played has either been a party game or an abstract. With an action selection mechanic, area control and what seems to be some genuine point salad, Akua falls solidly into the Euro camp.

I've already backed it on the PnP level. Since we have a laminator, making a playable copy will be a breeze. One of the stretch goals, one that looks like it will be met, will be for a two-player board. A two-player board and a clipboard could see some serious use.

I haven't had a chance to play it yet, although the two-player board will definitely increase my chances. I do hope that it's a good game that I could get a lot of play out of. I don't need to dry erase Euros but one would be really nice.

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