Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thoughts on Spielbox

Last weekend I picked up the November, 2010 issue of the magazine Spielbox.  As you may be able to guess from its name, it is a German magazine about games.  As the tagline says, "All about Games in a Box," which means it covers boardgames, cardgames, dexterity games, and pretty much all games that aren't either athletic games (like soccer or hockey) or electronic games (like Final Fantasy or Doom).  They have been publishing an English version of the magazine for about a year, now, and I noticed that the November issue came with a Carcassonne expansion, so I figured this was a good issue to pick up and see what I think about it.

The magazine itself is full-color, and printed in the European standard A4 paper size.  I can't say whether all issues are the same, but this one is 64 pages.  Some of those are advertisements, though I didn't find there to be too many ads in the magazine, and therefore it is mostly content.  Again, I don't know if this is standard or not, but a little over half of the magazine appeared to be review of various games, which I liked.  Because this is simply an edition of the magazine printed in English, and not a separate magazine with the same name targeted at the US market, the reviews mostly cover games available in the German and greater European market.  The ads also appeared to be heavily German-focused, with a few exceptions for US internet retailers.  Outside of the reviews there were two interview-style articles, one with a game designer couple and the other with an artist who does a lot of boardgame art and has started getting involved with game designs.  There also was an article looking at the evolution in design principles used by Martin Wallace in a series of games, a survey of a number of recent Carcassonne expansions, the rules for the mini-Carcassonne expansion that comes with the magazine (very smartly placed in the middle, so the rules are easily removed without overly mangling the rest of the magazine), an article about a German publisher in the '70s and the games they produced, an article about the evolution of word games (Scrabble, Boggle, some German games I'd never heard of before, etc.), an article about design in economic trading games, and a one page writeup of the 2010 Wizard world championships.

In case you missed it earlier, this is a German magazine.  Even though it is in English, you occasionally find "Germanisms" sneaking in.  For example, the designers for one game reviewed are referred to as "Aron West, Ryan Amos, und Marc Kelsey."  It is easy to figure out what they mean, but it is still noticeable.  Even more noticeable is the Carcassonne article where they list out every single expansion ever published for the game, and every name is in German.  Thus, to know what they are mentioning, a little bit of German is needed.  I can work some of it out, like "Der Fluss" is "The River" and "Wirstshäuser und Kathedralen" is "Inns and Cathedrals."  "König & Späher" might be "King and Bandit," but I'm not sure.  You have to be able to deal with stuff like that to get the most out of the magazine.

The downside of the magazine is that it sells for $15, at least at Game Nite, which is where I purchased it.  While I enjoyed the magazine, I can't see myself spending that much money on a regular basis for it (I believe it publishes bi-monthly).  I very well may pick up another issue that comes with an expansion for a game I play, but I generally don't own and play enough 'euro' games to make this a valuable magazine for me.

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