I’ve been looking back at my past blogs about Cheap Ass games. And I am fascinated by how much my opinion of the work of James Ernst has shifted.
Cheap Ass Games was one of the first game companies I discovered when I transitioned from a RPG-only guy to a board gamer too. In fact, I first came across Cheap Ass Games in a rural comic boom shop I only went to once. (They were sitting in a wicker basket. I didn’t get any for a few more years but I remember them)
However, during my game snob phase, my opinion seriously dropped. Then, after I became a parent and didn’t have hours to devote to gaming, I found myself impressed at how accessible and fun a lot of the Cheapass Games are. Now, I think they are nifty.
That said, even when my opinion of Cheapasss Games was at its lowest ebb, the Very Clever Pipe Game, Light Speed, Button Men and Lamarckian Poker were still in regular rotation.
I have king held that James Ernest is one of the most authentically punk game designers. The man wants you to use the man’s components? James Ernest says you can dump out the contents of your closet and , bang, there’s your game system!
One of the reasons Cheapass Games has been on my mind is that a family member recently came back from working for years in a third world country. They aren’t a gamer but I found myself thinking of how Cheapass Games would be a way to have accessible designer games when shipping or even printing wouldn’t be viable.
Obviously, not every game in their catalog is going fit those parameters. Not being able to easily make cards would make Kill Doctor Lucky for instance.
Hiwever, assuming you can get a hold of playing cards and dice (which I know might not be a safe assumption), games like Devil Bunny Needs A Ham or Spree or the Chief Herman collections seem within reach. You can make a Pairs Deck with three decks of cards that have the same backs.
Okay, I am probably romanticizing the potential for Cheapass Games. Seriously, if you have access to a deck of cards, you have a vast library of games that doesn’t need any help from James Ernest.
Post Script: and I just learned that James Ernest has spent the last few years publishing game files, including works in progress, at a site called Crab Fragments. I thought he retired and here he goes and gives me a whole new catalog to look at! L