Episode 39: Changelings

39: Changelings

Release Date: October 1, 2007

Running Time: 102 min.

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ep 39

Wonder Twin powers, activate! We play Blue Moon City, a board game based on a card game and Caylus Magna Carta, a card game based on a board game, plus we discuss the risks and rewards of changing classic games in reprints.

News & Notes: Key Harvest, Tzaar
The List:
Blue Moon City, Caylus: Magna Carta
Name That Game: win a copy of Caylus Magna Carta from Time Well Spent
Backshelf Spotlight:
Stratego, Fox & Geese
Truckloads of Goober:
Starcraft the board game
Game Sommelier:
Five games for a listener and his very picky wife
Mail Bag:
"Colorizing" classic games

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

Game News & Notes

Key Harvest Link

The latest game in Richard Breeze's Key series. Also available in a Master Print Edition under the title Demetra.

Changes to the Gipf Series: Tamsk Out, Tzaar In Link

The Gipf canon has been revised. Tamsk has been ousted (though it will live on as a stand-alone game) and a new title, Tzaar, will take its place.

The List (chosen by listener Simon Wilcock/Steerpike)

Blue Moon City BGG entry

A thematic sequel to the two player Blue Moon card game. Help rebuild a ruined futuristic city gathering crystals and dragon scales to become the leader.

Caylus: Magna Carta BGG entry

A streamlined version of the recent release Caylus. Gather resources, place workers and new buildings along the road to aid in the construction of a castle.

Backshelf Spotlight

Mystery Connection Contest
Can you find a connection between these two games? We find a mystery connection each episode and challenge you, the listener, to hunt for it! Post your guesses to the Forum . Find the connection and you could win a pair of custom Spiel dice !

Congratulations to Scooterb23 our winner for episode 38!

Stratego Link

Classic early strategy game that's an great stepping stone to games with greater depth.

Fox & Geese Link

Dating from 1400, teh fox tries to slaughter all the geese on the board before the geese can hem the fox in.

Truckloads of Goober

Starcraft: The Board Game BGG Entry

The latest hernia inducing offering from Fantasy Flight Games, based on the mega popular PC game from Blizzard.


Game Sommelier

The Challenge: (from listener Ron Barnette) Find five games Ron can play with his super picky wife!

Stephen's List

Dave's Vote

Battle Line Thumbs Up
Mystery Rummy Thumbs Up
Bucket King Thumbs Up
Zaubercocktail Thumbs Up
Space Dealer Thumbs Down

Next Challenge: Dave must make a do and don't list for a friend who has recently returned to gaming after a long respite: find five reprints of classic games that are either greatly improved by being updated or totally ruined by unnecessary changes.

Mail Bag

New donors to The Spiel!

Greg "Slow Play" Williams

Barb "Meeplina" Jung

Derek "2-Stop Turn" Jung

Andrew "Collision Die" Butler

Listener Greg in Seattle sent us a great letter asking for our opinion on remakes or reprints of classic games. Is change a universal evil when returning to older games or is there room for some tweaking without doing irreparable harm?


I forgot to mention that Fox & Geese likely owes a great debt to an earlier viking game Hnefatafel

The painting in the episode title is by Scandinavian artist John Bauer . He is famous for his paintings of trolls and other mythic scenes and creatures. The scene depicted is two trolls leading a young changeling girl away.

I'm sure there are some other goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!


First, as soon as I sent that email, I had that sense you get when you've called someone while a bit too tipsy. Embarrassing (grin). No hard rules- I adore the FFG take on Arkham Horror, for example. And it's nothing new- Dorr's 50-mile "Touring" (1903) became Parker's 100-mile "Touring" (1926) which in turn became "Mille Bornes". I was just reacting to the "everything older than five minutes ago is useless" idea that seems prevalent right now and wondering how that new paradigm is going to affect some returning favorites (Blackbeard, Cosmic Encounter etc.). Old versions of movies still lurk at the video store, replaced versions of games descend to the pricier levels of EBay. Are the classics stagnant or stalwart? This should be interesting.

Even though there are plenty of game remakes that aren't guilty of colorizationn, I think your point is still a very valid one. And a point that is all too often forgotten in the rush for the birght new shiny game boxes filled with goober. The classics are the classics because of gameplay most often and the challenge in updating or reprinting them is how not to screw that up while still making the game speak to a new generation. I think about these things in my writing, revisiting classic themes and stories and in essence it is the same sort of struggle. Whether its a game or anoher kind of play, we seem to want to incorporate and revisit the past, remake it in a manner that makes the most sense to us.

I know not everyone agrees, but I think Stephen should know before playing Caylus: some people DO think the card version is not Caylus with some minor things missing. Some people (OK, me, my friends, my girlfriend...) think that the Favor tracks missing is almost like having a car with a gas, but no break, or vise versa. It's something that has so much influence on the gameplay in the board game, that is does change the way you play a lot. It is the element that makes it possible to follow a million different strategies. It's that that is missing in the Magna Carta version. In the card game, strategies are quite limited: build buildings, contribute to the castle or combine both strategies. It makes for a much flatter experience. So in that regard, I don't believe you can say that Caylus Magna Carta is almost the same as Caylus.

On playing time: with about 2h, Caylus Magna Carta is hardly longer than Caylus (with experienced players).

Thanks for the alternate viewpoint, Surya. I didn't feel like my options were very limited in Magna Carta, given the choice of cards and when and where to place workers and gather resources. That said, I can see how an added layer of complexity would make the game even more enjoyable if you're up for a game that takes a little longer. The most important difference I took away from our play session and discussions was Dave's point about Magna Carta being accessible to a wider audience. While my tastes might swing way more in favor of Caylus proper (if I ever get to play!), I can see why Magna Carta might come off the shelf in more situations simply because more people could get into it.

I would agree with Surya that Caylus is a lot deeper than Magna Carta - but for me the latter is a stripped down version that makes it more playable without losing much of the enjoyment.

In the end, though, it is horses for courses and some people are going to prefer one to the other.

Both are great games - it probably depends on the crowd you have with you at the time and how you are feeling(and how long you have).
We need the Game Sommelier to help out there !

I have a similar reaction to Tigris and Euphrates and the card version. Both great implementations of the same mechanic but a time and place for both.

We don't stop playing games when we get old...... We get old when we stop playing games

Does Magna Carta eliminate any of the maintenance of Caylus? I really like Caylus, but I get tired of the repetitive nature of the physical portion of the game (place a piece * x, remove x pieces, reset turn, repeat). I need a computer version to handle all of that 'stuff'.

I haven't considered Magna Carta, but if it makes play easier - not less strategic, but less taxing on my poor fingers - I might look at it.

Hi Jonathan,

Magna Carta still has some of the maintenance aspect of its bigger brother - take money, retrieve your workers, move the provost - but it is reduced somewhat (less workers, no baillif) and the choice of buildings is easier because you can only lay what is in your hand. Overall a lot less analysis paralysis.

Not for everyone because it is simplified but worth a spin.

I prefer Caylus online (BSW) precisely for the reasons you give. I think face to face I prefer Magna Carta. Though I need to play more to finalise that decision.
(And to find some worthy opponents. Dave and Stephen were too easy :-)
We don't stop playing games when we get old...... We get old when we stop playing games

Hey now, purely for the record, I only lost to you by one point! And I think the phrase "poodle victory" was bandied about as well. :) I seem to remember Dave handing a crapload of resources and dinars to you in the last round....

And before someone asks, I'll leave it to you to explain the poodle again. :)

No, Dave was the Poodle in Blue Moon City (giving me a truckload of crystals to finish the obelisk in my turn).

Magna Carta was won without the aid of canine activity although the dodgy rule variant kinda helped.

But you are right - it was victory by the slimmest of margins. Maybe next time...

On the subject of Poodles, I loved this quote from Yahoo following England's shock victory over Australia in the Rugby World Cup:
"So just how, in three weeks, did England transform themselves from the Parisian poodles trampled underfoot by South Africa into the snarling Marseille mongrels who savaged Australia out of the tournament?"

We don't stop playing games when we get old...... We get old when we stop playing games

Whoops. Quite right, Dave was the poodle in Blue Moon City! I guess I had too much sake at dinner....

From poodle to mongrel in three weeks, impressive. But wait, I thought the English were bulldogs? So confused...

I never forget a poodle !

(although I mix my metaphors and confuse my canines)
We don't stop playing games when we get old...... We get old when we stop playing games

I was looking forward to this week's Game Sommelier segment because a few ideas occurred to me right off the bat. You went in SUCH a different direction that we had no overlaps!

I stayed more in board games. Ticket to Ride is a classic game that shows Alan R. Moon's designs. With its "X actions when you want to do X+1" balance, its "choose certain cards or the mystery meat" draw mechanic, and its "collect a set" card drawing, there are some hallmark gameplay elements that other games have that the games she didn't like are missing, so I went down that road instead.

Here's my list:

1) Airlines: One of Moon's earlier games with a lot of similarities to TtR, but because you're trading in stocks while building your network, it also has some elements that would cross over well into something later on my list that's a classic.

2) Money (the 1999 Knizia card game): It's little and silly and a bit light, but it has some really interesting card collecting mechanics that I think might go over well. Plus, I mean, who doesn't like collecting cash??? :)

3) Elfenland: Yeah, Moon again, but it also gives that "collecting" itch a scratch as you try and get cards, and the board still plays an important spatial element.

4) Thurn and Taxis: 2006's SdJ seems like a home run to me. Many of the same elements found in TtR are here in the collection of cards and the play of the mail routes, but it has a different scoring mechanism that makes for a fun sort of race game. Plus, it begins to introduce many german concepts and cities, so he can tell her they should make a trip there to see some of them... maybe in late October...

5) Acquire: I went back and forth over whether or not this would be appropriate. I think it has a LOT of elements that mesh well with elements in TtR and the Moon games that I'm very sure she'd like. It also happens to be one of the classic strategy games of the modern era, so in the end I figured it was good for a go.

After listening to your picks I though t about some speed and card games that might be cool, too, but I think I'll stand by my picks as is for now and maybe suggest more later.

-- Joe

Those are some interesting picks, Joe. Elfenland and Airlines seem like sure hits.

I thought about going down the specific mechanics route but your list is still different than the way I would have gone. Cool!

I wonder about length being an issue with something like Thurn & Taxis or Acquire since most of the games he mentioned were fairly short and not that involved. Once you know how to play they aren't really THAT much longer that Ticket to Ride, but getting over that first learning game might be a big enough hurdle to dissuade her. We'll have to hear from Ron to really know how either of us will fare on this one!

I also thought "Ten Days in Asia" might fit the bill.

My wife likes TransEuropa and Wildlife Adventure but that's just about it on route laying.
Carcassone is always popular and she's getting into Circus Flohcati as my eldest daughter loves it so much.

We don't stop playing games when we get old...... We get old when we stop playing games

Thurn and Taxis, once the players know it, goes faster than TtR in my experience (or maybe I just play with people who decide postal routes quickly :) ). So that was for me an "okay" on the length.

Acquire is the BIG if in that list. It's got some similar mechanics, but it's longer and definitely a little more involved and complex than any of the other games. That's why I wasn't sure if I should really put it on the list or leave it off for something lighter. But in the end, I put it on because there are so many non-gamers I know who actually DO like it despite the length and complexity, so that says to me that there's something there worth recommending to non-gamers who might like the mechanics.

-- Joe

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