Michael Eckenfels, 5 June 2023
Thoughts on Crowdfunding, from a N00b
I’m not much of a crowdfunding person. For years, it just seemed absolutely silly to me to throw money at something that did not exist but was promised to actually be, sometime in the future. As opposed to, you know, throwing money at something in stock and having it delivered in a week or so. It always made more sense to me to not spend money on a game unless it was indeed available and could show up on my doorstep in an amount of time that would be less than the length of time of, say, the English Civil War.
Not that I knock developers on Kickstarter, or Gamefound, or anything; what I’ve learned over the years has been surprising and a ‘whole new world,’ as the song goes. And in the last couple of years, I’ve gone in on more than a dozen games, from Kickstarter to Gamefound. It all started with USS Laffey: The Ship That Would Not Die, by Catastrophe Games, released just two years ago.
From Gamefound alone, in those two years roughly, I backed thirteen games. Those in the peanut gallery of the forums may laugh all they wish, but I knew these would not come all at once (goodness knows I’ve made those kinds of purchases before). Of the 13 three have been delivered, one was canceled (Kingdom Come: Deliverance – The Board Game), and the other nine are in various stages of production.
At Kickstarter, I have backed just a handful (“just”), totalling five. However, of those five, two are from my Gamefound list and don’t count and one failed to get backed, unfortunately. The other two include this particular title, Cruel Necessity Deluxe Edition, a 2023 upgrade and reprint of the original published ten years ago by Victory Point Games (VPG), Cruel Necessity: The English Civil Wars 1640-1653.
In all this time, I’d only backed original titles and not reprints. In fact, I had actually given away my original copy of Cruel Necessity, but regretted it, so I purchased another copy, secondhand. When I saw this reprint of Cruel Necessity pop up, I was instantly transfixed – but why? I love the original by VPG. I just shelled out a few coins to secure it back in my collection. Why on Earth would I want to shell out more money to get a rebranded/redone game?
I enjoyed the original so much that the more I thought of it, the more I thought upgraded components would be outstanding, for this classic.
And as is usually the case with a lot of crowdfunding games, you fire and forget. Occasionally an email reminder would appear in my inbox (and it’s funny how some devs are really good at it, like Old School Wargames/Worthington Games is, and others not so much) to tell me what the status was of this game. In this day and age, coming off the tail end of a virus of unspecified origin, and ridiculously expensive shipping costs, not to mention production issues with so many games…you really can’t approach it any other way, than fire and forget. At least, not in my mind. It’s almost like a Christmas gift from your past self, too, which is not a bad thing, especially when it comes to board games.
Unboxing the Deluxe Edition, with Comparison
On May 19th, my copy of Cruel Necessity Deluxe Edition arrived in the mail. I had heard it was shipping but I’m used to wave this and wave that and delay here and on and on, so I figured it would get here when it gets here.
click images to enlarge
I of course immediately posted the above picture to Facebook (as we are wont to do at times) as I was very excited for this game’s arrival – considering it was unexpected on my part, and I’d not seen anyone post about it to the Solitaire Wargames group on Facebook.
With this arrival, I pulled out my old copy of Cruel Necessity, by VPG. I was curious to see myself how the games are different. As you can see, the newer Deluxe edition (on the right) has artwork that stands out compared to the original version (at left). I am not saying the original version’s art is bad; not at all. The new version is just more vibrant and stands out better, I think.
Comparing the two, the updated version definitely takes up a bit more space, with the original box about 2/3 the thickness of the new one.
The box backs. The new version (right) looks a bit more organized than the original at left, design-wise. But again, that’s not a knock on my part. I do happen to like the design on the original box just for its old time type of design; the hues and sepia make it look old, but that’s not a bad thing, compared to the more firmly saturated box at right. I love them both and I’d be hard pressed to pick one over the other as looking better.
The original VPG game has a slipcover over a cardboard box that opens like a book at top. A lot of older VPG titles had this, which made them very unique, almost like the old Avalon Hill cases.
A close up of the VPG box.
Excuse the mess, I didn’t know you were coming over. I’d just ordered this last year but hadn’t gotten it to the table, and I need to organize it better than whomever had this before me.
And now, the rule books. At first, side-by-side, you’re just looking at books with covers similar to the box covers.
However, the updated version is of higher quality; it has thicker magazine-like glossy pages, whereas the VPG version is pretty much 11 x 17 pages folded in half, and stapled in the middle. Some may not like that; I don’t mind it at all. It does not at all take away from the game, and is merely an aesthetic choice that a lot of game companies do even today.
Flipping them both open, I placed the old rules at the top of the above photo, and the new rules below that. You can immediately see a design difference between the two. A ‘standard’ of VPG’s back in the day was triple-column rules, at least in these larger formats. I used to own two more of their titles, Ottoman Sunset and Hapsburg Eclipse, and can’t for the life of me remember if those were triple-column too, though I doubt it as the boxes and rules were smaller in size.
The books are both roughly the same number of pages (apologies, I didn’t look to determine this), and don’t seem to differ much color-wise. However, I think you may agree that the two-column format is better on the eyes than three, though the font does look roughly the same size.
Each version also has a Player Aid, a two-pager, front and back helper to give you general overviews of the game’s functions and flows. The left side is the original, while the right, the updated version. The newer version actually looks cleaner and better organized, though the font is smaller (I know this may be an issue for some gamers out there), but it’s not too bad or too tiny, I don’t think. Design-wise, I like the original more, with the map art behind the boxes; the updated version looks a little plainer, but there IS something to be said for a cleaner design. Again, a simple aesthetic choice, and I can’t fault a designer for wanting to make something less busy.
The opposite side of the Player Aids are definitely different. The original on the left merely shows a page of Optional Rules, while the updated version shows more overviews of the game. While I like the original for the other side, I definitely think the upgraded version looks better on this side. And, I believe the optional rules are in the updated rule book. VPG, goodness love them and I dearly miss them, but they did have a penchant for covering every available space here and there with charts and such.
The Battle Board, which is from the original version of the game, is completely awesome. I love this thing, even though it’s not mounted and takes up more room on a game table. It still is very well designed and extremely thematic, so it is a joy to use.
There is not a similar component for the upgraded version, as this is printed directly on the mounted board. We will take a look at that in a moment, so stay tuned a bit. Or just scroll down; you could always do that.
Here’s a close-up of the rules in the upgraded version. Those first few pages showing above didn’t really speak to the colorful design of the upgraded version. VPG definitely used color in their rules, though. I would give the edge to these rules again just because they are two-column and the extra real estate, so to speak, on the pages makes it more pleasing on the eye – if I had to choose one over the other, of course.
By comparison, here’s pages from the original rule book. Again, they’re not bad; it just feels like you’re reading a LOT to go through three columns per page.
And here we go – the new, improved, mounted board in the upgraded version. The Political Tracks are on the left side, and the Battle Board, in the upper right corner. I do like the Political Tracks but the Battle Board just seems somewhat…plain. Not that I need busy or anything, but it just seems to be lacking some of the flair (not 27 pieces or anything) that the original has. Still, it does not at all look bad.
The original board.
Note that it came in two pieces, both unmounted.
Again, not a knock on the game company; mounted boards are very expensive to produce, and these non-mounted boards are absolutely fine. From a cost perspective, these make perfect sense and work just as well. There is, of course, something to be said for the tactile feel of an actual mounted board, though.
This map, I like it in general – the old type hues and brown tones make it feel like a map from the period. But, it’s also rather busy, too, as if it’s trying to do a lot and not utilizing the space it has all that well. The overlay of card spaces on top of the map itself (such as in far north Scotland and far southwest England) really weren’t noticeable to me, until I saw the upgraded board – and now I realize I like the upgraded board more, the more I think about it.
The VPG catalog is a cool little blast from the past, though it seems weird to think of it as the ‘past,’ at least compared to some more ancient Avalon Hill “Do A Friend A Favor” cards.
The other sides show even more information.
Now, some of the upgraded cards. The stock they’re made from is much better than the original; these upgraded cards have a mesh-like texture to them. The design is a bit different, though not terribly so as you’ll see here in the next images.
The other side of these three, upgraded cards.
The upgraded box contains an insert with six large spaces, wide enough to hold the cards for the game and easily large enough to hold all the game pieces, too.
The upgraded cards initially come in a shrink wrap at left, and the small stack on the right, in a sealable pouch.
The designs of the backs of the original cards are I think a bit more thematic.
The backs of the newer cards are indeed thematic too. It’s hard to choose one that’s better, though these upgraded cards do look cleaner and less severe.
The new cards. They are organized by era, which is why you see three different colors on their left sides.
The original cards. I can’t say I think the designs of the front of the new cards are better. They’re certainly cleaner, but I do like the thematic font on these older ones. The new ones look…maybe a tad too modern? I could be wrong, but it strikes me as such.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the same card, “King Charles Goes on Trial,” from each version. Apologies for the blurriness, but you can get the idea of the design and how it differs between the two.
As I said, the one at left – the upgraded version – certainly looks cleaner, but the font is smaller and therefore may be harder to read for some. The iconography works well for both, I think, though there is something to be said as to how “Unrest in London” stands out on the older card at right, as opposed to “Political Reaction” at left. I mean, it stands out too, but the “Unrest” font at right looks positively like a riot in progress.
You can see a bit better here, too (apologies again for the image quality), the text along the edge at left of each card. The text font on the older card looks much more thematic than the one at left. It’s larger, too.
The Battle Event cards, used during…wait for it…battles in the game. These are their backsides; the ones at left are the newer cards, the one at right…you guessed it, from the older version. I do like the design better on the newer ones; it gives you a wide view of a battlefield, which is what you see when you’re lining things up. The one at right is fine, perhaps more thematic as you see a battle in progress from the ground, but for your perspective as a commander, the one at left I think works better.
Flipping the cards over, we can see the newer one at left and older, at right. Very similar, though the one at right, its font is much larger and easier to read, at least for me. I think I like the iconography with the up and down arrows to illustrate a rise or lowering of the various Tracks indicated on the card. I do see this in the newer cards (the blurriness doesn’t help, sorry), but there are arrows there. And, the highlighted color helps reinforce the action that needs to be taken with these Tracks. Still, I suppose it’s a toss-up. Some will like the new design, others will prefer the older one. I like them both for various reasons.
And now, the counters. There are two sheets of them with a front and back side and you can notice right off the design differences for some of them. I’ll show you a few of these here.
Here is the back side of each sheet.
So here’s one comparison. Scotland (of course) is but one of the besieging armies in this game. The counter that’s free at left is from the original game, and the newer one is of course at right, still in the sprue.
I admit, I do like the newer version and love that the entire counter is covered in blue here. It really makes the unit stand out.
And one more comparison – more Scotland (of course). You can see the named and unnamed units here, though the design really is not much different except that the numbers are a bit smaller in the new version. I think it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, as to preference.
The other counters, the markers and such, really do not differ much from the original except the quality overall for the newer game is better.
And that concludes my comparisons. It will take getting the game to the table – both of them, actually – to really feel out how the new one does for the experience of this fantastic game.
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IF YOU ENCOUNTER A COUNTER CASTING A HEX IN A HEX
AND YOU COUNTER THE HEX WITH A COUNTER-HEX IN THAT HEX DURING THE ENCOUNTER,
AND YOU HAVE TO COUNT HOW MANY HEXES ARE IN THE HEX DURING THE ENCOUNTER
ARE YOU PLAYING A HEX-AND-COUNTER WARGAME?