A group of experienced games journalists are publishing a 250 page hardback boardgame yearbook and it looks very interesting. While books are not really my focus here, it seems like an interesting product of itself with a strong proposition; making it worthy of a closer look.
Essentially, it’s a Britannica Book of the Year for tabletop games: mixing reviews of the 100+ biggest titles of the year and interviews with designers (including big names like Martin Wallace, Matt Leacock and Reiner Knizia). The goal appears to be to create a single compendium which will capture the essence of what was going on in the boardgame world over the past 12 months.
Why has no one done this before?
I used to love dipping in and out of my parent’s old Britannica yearbooks as a child; hopping from subject to subject. And when Lego’s collector book came out (which this made me think of instantly) I spent way too much time working my way through it. Just admiring the amazing array of sets they had produced and how they had evolved over the years was a real pleasure and that book is basically just a huge catalogue. Given the planned combination of analysis with great visuals here, this book (and any future entries in a series) could combine the best of both of those things for the tabletop world.
And yet, as far as I know no such thing has been created in this space before. This is surprising, because it seems like a very good idea that should find a market very quickly. Tabletop games are are becoming a huge business fast. The sheer number of new games out there is mind boggling; it’s becoming very hard to keep-up. On that basis alone I can see a huge attraction in having something to make sense of it all, both for hardcore enthusiasts and anyone working in the industry.
Beyond that, there’s strong potential for it to be an appealing coffee-table type book for gamers of all types. Individual articles are likely to be intriguing but quick reads. And with the standards of art in games just going up all the time, a very pleasant aesthetic experience too: if they successfully capitalise on that artwork as they intend.
It should be the perfect ‘sofa-leaf-through’ for any fan. Provided they don’t already have a copy, it should also be a very safe present to buy for such a fan. After all, any specific game you buy them might not be to their taste. But they’ll almost certainly get some pleasure out of this regardless of what they like.
The initial renders look solid, though not as artistically thrilling as they could be. It looks the plan is to layout most pages in a very similar way with only a change of colour on each spread. Personally, I’d like to see some more adventurous magazine style layouts where game artwork and graphical elements (even fonts) are used in a more integrated way with articles visually tailored to the feel of the game they are about. Art books (as you would expect) tend to do this very well. I feel sure there’s some potential inspiration for the team in that kind of title.
This is only a first outing in a planned series of annual editions though, and many custom layouts would be almost certain to push their production costs far higher. But it would be really great to see something like individualized layouts as a stretch goal when they launch their Kickstarter. Currently, their target seems relatively conservative to me at £15,000. Hopefully that means they’ll safely overfund and can afford to get a little more creative.
Crucially though, the actual writing is likely to be very good either way given the team’s credentials.
They all write for established industry titles like Tabletop gaming magazine or, like editor Owen Duffy, as specialists for internationally renowned mainstream publications like The Guardian or VICE. I’ll be keen to see what tiles they actually choose for the review (we only have a sneak peek at a few key titles so far like Fog of Love or Sakura) but the list of interviewees is already excellent and probably alone worth the RRP (£23, £20 on KS with a supporter credit). Given those journalistic chops, the Q&As with them should be very insightful. And since there are just so many games being published now, it should be relatively easy for them to pick 100 or so which provide enough food for thought for the authors to sink their teeth into.
Given their plan to publish annual editions, there’s a lot of potential for this series to become something of an institution in board games. That seems like an odd thing to write about before the KS even launches but if they get it right, it’s very easy to imagine that the honour of just being featured will be quite a thing. No doubt they have already considered this. It might not be a Spiel-de-Jahres, but just being in here would suggest your game is important. And if that happens, then the success of a series of these books would be somewhat self-sustaining because of it’s value as the considered and thoughtful “hot” list for an industry. It may be cheeky of me to say it, but I can already imagine the “so humbled to be included…” tweets.
Of course, if that does happen then we could quickly be looking at competitor titles emerging. But as we say in product management, that means you’re onto something.
Given all of that, however this project finally develops, I think a pledge has to be worth a punt: as long as you have the cash and any interest in games. You can follow them on Twitter, Facebook or Instragram and, of course, you can back the project here.