All That and a Box of Rocks
MikeSelinker_120 von Mike Selinker:
Boo! It must be Samhain, which maybe you know as the night of Halloween and All Saints Day. I've just returned from the Essen Game Fair, which is the largest hobby-game convention in the world. If you've been to Origins or Gen Con, you might have thought they were big. And they are. But Essen is 180,000 people, nearly all of them there to play board games. It is a sight to behold (...)

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MikeSelinker_120 von Mike Selinker:
Boo! It must be Samhain, which maybe you know as the night of Halloween and All Saints Day. I've just returned from the Essen Game Fair, which is the largest hobby-game convention in the world. If you've been to Origins or Gen Con, you might have thought they were big. And they are. But Essen is 180,000 people, nearly all of them there to play board games. It is a sight to behold.
At Essen, I showed the Stonehenge prototype to a lot of my European game designer counterparts. Most of them thought it was quite cool, and were quite intrigued by the design team I introduced to you in my last Stonehenge diary. I picked those particular people because they're good game designers, they're my friends, and they play well with others. And also because they all were smart enough to help me figure out which anthology board game to do.
It might surprise you that we didn't start with the idea to do Stonehenge. We actually had a different idea, which Bruno tells me I can't spoil in case we pick it up for some other anthology board game in the future. It was a great idea, but we all suspected that the subject wasn't well known enough for the launch of this line. Here's what the Mystery Idea did have going for it, though:
1. It was historical. You put enough time between something and now, people are gonna come up with all sorts of reasons to like it. That contrasts with, say, a science-fiction or fantasy game, where you have to tell people why they should like it.
2. It was mysterious. (All good Mystery Ideas are.) You didn't know quite what it was used for, or how it got where it was, or what people thought of it at the time. That suggested lots of different things you could justify doing with it, because no one had a fixed idea in their head.
3. It had lots of objects associated with it. If there's lots of stuff in the environment, there's lots of things you can make into game pieces.
So if we weren't going to do the Mystery Idea, what subject could we do? We kicked around a lot of ideas, but it took a friendly little gathering at Alan Moon's to nail it down. I gathered up Richard Borg, Alan, and Überplay Entertainment publisher Jeremy Young and floated them a number of ideas for the project formerly known as "Shared Designer Box." Alan, however, made an eloquent defense of Stonehenge as an ideal first anthology board game. Here's how it stood up against the criteria I just mentioned:
1. It's about as historical as you can get. In fact, it's prehistorical, as nobody with a written language was anywhere near it while it was being built. There are postholes at the site that date from 8000 BC. (Eight thousand. To put that in perspective, that's about the first time that blond hair showed up.) The real work at the site began around 3100 BC, though, with the first ditch and a circle of wooden posts in holes. Some standing stones were added around 2600 BC, and the giant sarsen stones in the familiar three-stone trilithon arrangment arrived between 2400 and 2100 BC. (Just to put that in perspective, Stonehenge was complete before anyone on Earth had drank a cup of tea.)
2. It's super-mysterious. About the only things we know for certain about Stonehenge is that it's about 8 miles north of Salisbury, and it has a lot of rocks. Who built it? Hard to say. Why'd they build it? Ditto. If you had to list the top 10 mysterious structures in the world, you'd be spending all your time ranking the bottom nine. Even in the cases of the pyramids and the Sphinx, you know exactly what those colossi were used for. With Stonehenge, you've got any of the following possibilities:
• It's a channeling device.
• It's a giant clock.
• It's a druidic sacrifice site.
• It's a marketplace.
• It's an astronomical observatory.
• It's a chariot racetrack.
• It's a UFO landing platform.
• It's Merlin's personal magical lab.
3. Actually, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Stonehenge has more origin stories than rocks.
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4. But it does have a whole lot of rocks. According to the so-called "Restored Plan" (which I think is right, but not everyone does), Stonehenge has about a hundred small stones, 60 large stones, and 15 really large stones. Some are round, some are tall, and some are stacked on top of each other. This makes for a wonderful piece pack for a game.
And in the next column, I'll tell you about what's in that piece pack. Have a happy Samhain.
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