Big box, or micro? Table hog or backpack fodder? Which is best? Rather, what would you rather have, many or few?
"Micro-Games" a commonly used term for games that come in very small packages, play in a very small amount of time (dependent of course, but 10-15 minute play times are most common, but so are 30 minute play times) and take up just over a place-mat's worth of space. Price points for these are usually around $10-$25USD as well. The best part about them?
They are everywhere, and their market share is growing.
Arguably the most popular micro-game currently is Love Letter by AEG. Released in 2012, the game is a social deduction game where players are trying to get their 'love letter' to the princes by playing cards and applying their unique effects.
"Love Letter" is credited for launching the Micro-Game into main stream board gaming culture.. The fact is tat they have been around in popular culture for much longer, but for the sake of argument we are going to stick to 2004 onward.
"No Thanks" by Amigo Spiel was published in 2004 and may be the earliest modern micro-game. But micro isn't small enough for us. We need to go deeper.
"Win Lose Banana" by Asmadi is what some call a 'nano-game'. It consists of three cards with then names 'Win', 'Lose' and 'Banana'. In this three player game, cards are dealt out one to each person. If you are dealt the 'Win' card, congratulations! A winner is you! There is a variant where the winner tries to figure out who has the Banana card that can delve into the social deduction aspect, but its technically isn't part of the game.
Michael Eskue re-skinned (intentionally or not) "Win, Lose, Banana" in 2013 and dubbed it "Where Art Thou Romeo?". The game is essentially the same, where instead of Bananas, its Montegues and Capulets convincing Juliet that they are the one true Romeo over multiple rounds while accruing points.
Why do I bring attention a 'nano-game' that was re-skinned 4 years later? Simply put, even though it is only three cards, it implies that it is good enough that it should have a place on the retail shelf.
So if "Win, Lose, Banana" is worth it to reprint, does that mean that it is worth it?
Quantity and Quality
Going back to Micro-games, which are substantially meatier comparatively, are usually one-fifth the price of the average MSRP of a 'standard' size game. For this example, let us consider a 'standard' hobby game to be $60USD and let us use the game Agricola (who's MSRP is actually $69.99USD, but it's one that many people know, so bear with me). Let us also assume that the average MSRP of a micro-game to be $20USD. Are three micro-games worth one 'standard' game?
This falls into the thought of quantity versus quality. Personally, I find mush more enjoyment in a game that will consume my entire evening. I like to be mentally and emotionally invested. Micro-games don't do that for me. Sure, I love "Sushi Go" and "Star Realms", but I prefer the meat of a 'standard' offering.
So why are two of my gaming shelves filled with micro-games when they don't fulfill my gaming needs?
QUANTITY. I can buy more with my twenty bucks now, than saving my money until later. The American in me wants instant gratification, and what better way to do that than slave away to the capitalist machine that will give me my fix now for cheap, rather than save up for the good stuff.
I can spend more time in one session with 'Agricola' than 20 sessions of 'Love Letter', but I can also buy six copies of 'Love Letter' to one 'Agricola". So which is worth more?
Should I buy or Should Save?
Where the distinction lies is the perceived value. If you feel like 20 games of a micro-game is worth one session of a 'standard' game, than go for it. These games have their merits, and they are worth enjoying, but maybe it might be worth it to save that $20 and hold off a bit until you can splurge on a truly deep experience. I'm sure that there is some sort of economical jargon for this that proves one decision is better than the other. Maybe the Sunk Cost fallacy has something to do with it. Probably.
What does all this boil down to? Do what ever you want to do. Reasonably, what do I care? You do You.
When we launched our Kickstarter for Season 2 of Cards an Chit, we had a tremendous vision for the show. One that included creating an entire network. Not only did we want to continue to produce our reviews, but we wanted to delve into creative theater. The schedule we created for ourselves was an absolute nightmare.
If we funded at and unlocked each stretch goal, we would have given ourselves an impossible workload. Two episodes of different shows some weeks, and 4 episodes for others. We could barely get a single review out on time and we wanted to disappear into our work load.
This was something I was tremendously excited for. I loved every aspect of the process. I loved the reviews, the sound design, the editing, publishing, community involvement, networking. All of it filled my soul with joy. Even though I was going to university full time, I could not wait to get started on this insane task.
There were quite a few things going on that lead to the dissolution of the "network". Personal lives got in the way, and we ended up falling behind on review obligations we had with publishers, and tensions ended up running high. I was determined to review games with the respect they deserved (even if they weren't good games), and avoided at all costs putting out a sub-par product. This pressure I was putting on the team created a hostile environment towards the hobby itself. The show was no longer a fun activity that we did in our free time, but rather a job we were not being paid for.
There was one other situation where we ran into this problem. About 7 months in, we ran into a string of bad games. Moral was low, as we mentally decided that the game we were going to play was going to be bad before we even opened the box. We skipped days, we fell apart in our reviews (with people often walking out literally in the middle of a review). We ultimately made a point to play games that were already established as good to keep up moral.
I was confident that we would prevail as we had before. And yet...
In December 2015, we fell over a month behind on our review queue. On January 23rd, we launched our Kickstarter. On February 8th, we shut down that Kickstarter, and in early April, I disabled our the majority of our RSS feed and stopped paying for audio hosting.
It has since been 2 months since the show has officially been out on hiatus, and I am struggling with some things. For start, I miss everything about it. Second, I cannot bring myself to follow through with a reboot.
In the process of shutting down, I was forced to burn so many bridges. I lost relationships with designers, publishers, and I lost a significant amount of money (I was the sole provider of recording equipment, and ended up being the only one paying for audio hosting) from my own pocket. My ability to get games to the table, and my personal enjoyment of my all-time favorite titles has dropped to near zero. Still, every fiber of my being wants to do reboot the podcast.
I should mention that I am currently involved in another online/radio show, but I do not have creative control over any aspect of it. I simply sit in and comment where needed. It is fun, and right now, I live for every Tuesday when we go into studio, but it isn't something that I take control over.
The State of the Meta
I have been talking to Charlie Bink about coming on as a co-host. We have been kicking around a few format ideas and I have thought long an hard about what I want the show to represent when it comes back.
The short of it is, I have no F*ing idea.
There are a few types of boardgame podcasts.
Where does Cards and Chit fall into this formula? Where do we fall into the market?
This is the question that I have been asking myself since February 8th.
It hurts my soul that we ended the way we did. There is nothing I want more than to get back to the table top and produce content to help my favorite hobby.
So what does this mean for Cards and Chit? Will it return? Who will it consist of? I have no idea. I am torn, I am hurt, and I cannot stop thinking about getting back into the thick of it.
Yet every time I break out the equipment, all I want to do is toss it in the garbage.