Friday, April 5, 2019

James Ernest is totally punk

I’m sorely tempted to back the latest Kickstarter from Cheapass Games: Cheapass Games In Black and White. It’s a retrospective by James Ernest about the company. It looks to be one third stories about how he designed games and two thirds rules and components sheets.

Which means that the ebook version amounts to a PnP workshop :D

Actually I don’t know if it will be formatted in a way to make PnP easy. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. Which isn’t that big a detractor. They’re releasing thirty of their titles as free PnP files and they’ve released a bunch earlier. And some games, like Lamarckian Poker, are just rules anyway.

On top of that, since I’ve been collecting Cheapass Games for over ten years, I’m not sure if there will be much I don’t already have :D

So it’s actually the reminiscing that really, really interests me.

But that’s not what this Kickstarter made me feel like blogging. I mean, anyone who’d be interested in the book already knows about it :P It was a quote from one of the prerelease blurbs. Cory Doctorow (who I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard of) describes the company as ‘a punk genius of the gaming world’

The idea of Cheapass Games as a punk concept, possibly accidentally (the book might make me change my mind), is a great way for me to explain Cheapass Games. Not Mohawks and safety pins kind of punk but the ideology of rejecting the mainstream corporate. 

Board gaming, even more so back in the 90s, is a niche culture and a boutique business. But chrome and pretty bits and production are still a big deal. I’ve known folks who will judge a board game on its production level before anything else. Chrome is a such a selling point. Chrome is how the man gets you to buy games.

And, while sometimes I feel like people who demand chrome should go to a museum rather than play games if pretty things are that big a deal, there is real value to chrome. It can make a game easier to play and understand.

But Cheapass Games definitely proved that low production, (sometimes) hi concept could really work. It rejected the idea of needing a pile of plastic for a game to be good. And, in a world where having miniatures sometimes seems like a requirement for a Kickstarter to be funded, that is an important idea.

Sometimes, I feel like the main reason a game needs colorful art and plastic figures is to convince other people to play the game.

So pitching Cheapass Games as a way to reject being a corporate sell-out and sticking it to the man might be the way to get people into their games. Slightly more seriously, Cheapass Games did show a different way to approach both publishing and playing games. 

Instead of saying this is a game about bartering over chopped up body parts, let’s say this was part of a revolution.

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