Episode 88: Small Press Pow-Wow

88: Small Press Pow-Wow

Release Date: Oct. 12, 2009

Running Time: 138 min.

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Size doesn't matter. For us, it's all about fun. From games made at the kitchen table to up-and-coming entrepreneurs, we play Kachina and The Great Potlatch, two recent titles from publishers Small Box and Bucephalus Games.

News & Notes: Macao, Dungeon Lords, Jaipur, Tobago, Day & Night
The List: Kachina, The Great Potlatch
Table Talk: Quackery
Back Shelf Spotlight: 
Captain Treasure Boots

Truckloads of Goober:  Goober up your game
Game Sommelier:  5 games to play while holding a newborn.
Mail Bag: Kazaam Dice, Monopoly as escape device

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.

 News & Notes

Macao   Official Site | BGG 

At the end of the 17th century, Macau, the mysterious port city on the southern coast of China, is a Portuguese trading post in the Far East. The players take on the role of energetic and daring adventurers. Many exciting tasks and challenges await the players, whether they are a captain, governor, craftsman or scholar. Those who chose the wisest course of action, and have the best overall strategy, will earn the most prestige at the end.

Dungeon Lords   Official Site | BGG

Have you ever ventured with party of heroes to conquer dungeons, gain pride, experiences and of course rich treasure? And have it ever occured to you how hard it actualy is to build and manage such underground complex filled with corridors and creatures? No? Well now you can try. Put yourself in role of the master of underground, summon your servants, dig complex of tunnels and rooms, set traps, hire creatures and try to stop filthy heroes from conquering and plundering your precious creation. We can guarantee you will look on dark corners, lairs and their inhabitant from completely different perspective!

Jaipur  Official Site | BGG

Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. You are one of the two most powerful traders in the city. But that's not enough for you, because only the merchant with two Seals of Excellence will have the privilege of being invited to the Maharaja's court. You are therefore going to have to do better than your direct competitor by buying, exchanging and selling at better prices, all while keeping an eye on both your camel herds.

Tobago   Official Site | BGG

Chests full of gold are buried in the jungle – rumors have it that one of them is hidden next to a hut near the island’s largest mountain. Another is hidden where the roar of an untamed river can be heard, it is said. Through the fronds of a palm tree, the proud gaze of a mysteriously scrunching statue casts its spell on the unwary treasure hunter …

2009 International Gamers Awards Announced   Link

Strategy Game: Le Havre     Two Player Game: Day & Night

Le Havre   Official Site | BGG

Le Havre is an economic and "worker placement" game in which players must distribute goods and make good use of buildings and clever combinations in order to amass the largest fortune.

Day & Night   Official Site | BGG

Sisters Day and Night stand on opposite sides of the valley of emptiness, a spine-chilling place with floating boulders, used ever since the Dawn of Time and Memory to battle for justice. The goal is to build two Temples and in doing so honor the gods and enforce justice.

Spiel-a-thon 2009  Link

Saturday, Nov. 21 4:30 - 7:00 PM. Come join us for fun, games, and help support a great cause.

Welcome to Our Newest Sponsor: Starlit Citadel!  Link

Based out of Vancouver, B.C., Starlit Citadel offers a huge selection of titles (over 1200 in stock) at some of the lowest prices North of the border! For American customers, check out their selection of harder to find import games. The Citadel could be a great option instead of paying for costly overseas shipping. They also offer Small Press Contests each month with prizes. We're glad to have them as our first international advertiser and we look forward to telling you more about their business in the coming months.

The List

Kachina Official Site | BGG

Strategic tile placement game that combines Scrabble style mechanics with special  abilities for each tile.

The Great Potlatch Official Site | BGG

Build totems, perform rituals, give gifts and try to become the the most respected member of your clan by being the most generous player.

Table Talk

Quackery  Official Site | BGG

The Royal family has fallen ill and it's your job to save some of them. Cure or kill pox ridden aristocrats in an effort to become the next Royal Physician.

Back Shelf Spotlight

Captain Treasure Boots  CheapAss Site | BGG 

A pirate combat par excellence! Seek out treasures and enhancements to your ship and deliver them back to port. Be the first to collect 30 points and you'll take home the title: Captain Treasure Boots!

Truckloads of Goober

A Goober segment without a game. Wha? We discuss how to take goobery elements you have at home and enhance any game experience.

The Game Sommelier

The challenge: 5 games to play to introduce to new gamers BUT games you can play while holding a newborn in one arm.


Can't Stop

Mystery of the Abbey

10 Days in Asia


Donors - Pledge Drive 2009

Thanks to the following donors/subscribers:

Brandon "The Chancellor" Jones

Nikki "Sopwith Camel" Sagle

James "Twonky" Burns

Randy "Draw Four" Welker

Mail Bag

Thanks to the many listeners who mentioned the great article on Monopoly and its role in helping POWs escape from prison camps.  Link

Thanks to David Siskin for the tip on Kazaam Dice


Music credits (courtesy of Ioda Promonet) include:

"The Cosmic Tree" - Native American Flute Works - buy the mp3

"Seven Gifts" - Spirit Nation - buy the mp3

"Yaneeha - Sweet Daughter-Moon" - Spirit Moon - buy the mp3

"Tossin' & Turnin'" - Cigar Store Indians - buy the mp3


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

I state there are 8 phases to each day in The Great Potlatch. There are only 6.


Cheapass was, within its field, downright subversive in its time. In the days between when Magic: The Gathering introduced the game you never quite finished buying and companies like Days of Wonder were conducting their “German experiment” to see if the American market would continue to support new titles at the price point established by the early imports, Cheapass had the gall to point out that markers were essentially all the same. In doing this, he (because let’s face it, Cheapass was pretty much James Ernest’s solo flight) pulled the wool off my eyes and revealed that, given a nice set of Icehouse pyramids with glass stones in matching colors, I already owned many of the games on my wishlist for all intents and purposes. The reason for the Cheapass model was to eliminate the redundant expenses and in so doing make operating a small press viable.

This is why I wouldn’t want game companies to start packing poker chips into every game. If trying to separate paper bills from each other bugs me (and if the slickly finished bills used in Dice Town were to become the norm, paper money might shake its bad reputation), I’d rather supply chips myself than have every game title add yet another 10 bucks to its price tag. It’s very similar to the way that small new publishers in the 70’s and 80’s managed to bring epic battles to the marketplace through the use of the cardboard chit. (One of the most nastily amusing comments I ever read in a game forum shot down a complaint that an SPI game had no plastic miniatures by suggesting that the box should have had a disclaimer reading “Warning: Imagination Not Included”) It looks like Cheapass is folding up the tent now as James Ernest moves into glossier publishing (which brings up another apparently soon-to-be-missed company but that's another post) but as much as I appreciate a dazzlingly produced game, I’m glad he was there to prove that not every game had to follow the same production model. I’m a big fan of Spree! And thanks for the idea of raiding my copy of Dread Pirate for Captain Treasure Boots; I can’t believe I forgot about that.


I might have to use that line as an episode title some time!

The business model CheapAss tested and proved was certainly revolutionary, given that the tide of high production value games from Europe were starting to have more influence on the American market. And as you point out, it's one that still holds merit today.

The other revoltionary thing they did was offer their games on a subscription basis. You could pay an annual or monthly fee and they would send whatever new titles they came up with in the meantime. Especially when production costs are so low, what a great way to build support and (hopefully) a larger nest egg for more ambitious projects.

It seems like CheapAss didn't have a phase two in mind. Once they grew to a certain size, they didn't have a plan on how to either maintain that size or grow beyond it. That may have more to do with Mr. Ernest wanting to pursue  other publishing options with bigger publishers than anything else, as you suggest.

I like seeing companies like Small Box adding their own spin to the CheapAss model. True, Small Box games come with components and cost more than the CheapAss predecessors, but I see them as torch bearers in many ways. Their games may come in drawstring bags, but they still can pack as much gaming punch as any big box game.


 I could hear your surprise (and outrage) at the actions of the Canadian and U.S. governments in banning the practice of Potlatch. I'd like to cast more light on the subject. Our modern society has an overly romanticized view of native cultures that largely glosses over its unsavory elements. The usual, current interpretations of the Potlatch paint it as essentially a celebration of generosity and altruism. But it was viewed very differently in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was judged to be a form of compulsory communism. The Potlatch was more than just a social event: it was the foundation of their politico-economic system. At a time when Western leaders were fighting a global climate of communist rebellions, the Potlatch economy was viewed as a challenge to capitalism. Not simply a communal ceremony, it was seen as a despotic redistribution of wealth, wherein titles and social standing were dependent upon obligatory forfeiture of property. It fostered and sustained poverty, indebtedness, and squander. Furthermore, it often involved destruction of property and even slaying of slaves. In fact, because the Potlatch reinforced the class system and maintained a cycle of destitution, its ban had support from many natives.

In the same way that we denounce communism today, the Potlatch system was condemned a century ago. I'm not defending the "white man's" practice of forced assimilation, I just hope that explains the mindset behind the Potlatch bans. In any case, I'm really hoping to get a copy of the game, along with several others from Mr. Clowdus, most notably Dirge and Temple.

Western cultures certainly do romanticize native cultures. Of that I have no doubt. Thanks for reiterating this point.

From what I have read and researched, though, the bans on Potlatch had much more to do with religious conversion of native tribes and finding ways to impede their ability for self-governance than fears over the spread of Communism.

The Potlatch was at the core of the indigenous tribes' spiritual and social life. To be sure, there are overt economic elements to the ceremony and status within and between tribes was affected by the outcome of the ceremony.  But the religious and the political were inextricably connected in a way that is very different from a Western style republic that promotes separation of Church and State.

The main issue I sought to convey was that the potlatch was neither condemned nor thought to be a threat to Western civilization by the overwhelming majority of people who practiced this form of religion.

What happened to religious tolerance and the right of self governance or self-determination for these indigenous people?

Western nations tried to enforce a different religious and moral code on people who were self governing and content to continue practicing their religion as they had done for centuries. Shouldn't it have been up to the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest to determine if and when the potlatch as an internal expression of religion and governance no longer had merit?

I am by no means an expert on the subject but I did study a lot of colonial and post-colonial literature and theory at university. I'm glad you're shedding light on the subject from a different perspective, but I'll maintain my original stance that the potlatch bans had more to do with dismantling the tribes' religious freedom and self-governance. For good or ill, the US and Canada were uninvited interlopers enforcing their will, their law, perhaps even their fears as you suggest, on essentially defenseless nations.

The Potlatch Papers (link)

An Indigenous perspective on events that affect the Kwakwaka'wakw. (link)


Being one of your devoted Canadian listeners, I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on the new sponsors and to let everyone know what a great company Starlit Citadel is!   I have placed several orders with them in the past and have always been impressed with their level of service.  Prompt, courteous, and always happy to answer your questions, they are a pleasure to deal with.  And I would also agree that up here in the great white north you would be hard pressed to find better prices.

In fact, I just received my last order from them only three days ago, and it arrived so quickly I was shocked to see it in my mailbox already!  These guys are great! So go check them out Eh?

Thanks for the testimonial, Ken! It's great to hear from someone who has dealt with them over the span of several orders.

The fine folks at Starlit Citadel have been nothing but great so far in our admittedly limited experience. We're planning an order with them after Essen when we see which titles they end up carrying right away. Can you tell I am drooling already? :)

Be sure to let them know you appreciate their support of the show.

Great to see you giving some love to the small publishers - not so good that I now have two more games on my want list.

Given that Small Box games work on limited print runs, what do you say to getting a bunch of Spiel listeners together to submit one big 'Spiel order' for a special run.

I'm in ! Anyone else ?

[Can I play it on the toilet?]

Count me in for Potlatch or any Small Box game.

Worthy of note, by the way, is the fact that there is also a Kachina iPhone Application:

It's quite a nice implementation although it only plays solo (currently there are no AIs to pit your wits against nor any online play). Still it's an interesting exercise in scoring points and gives a good flavour of the game.

Actually, you did not mention it in the show but it seems the game does lend well to a solo 'puzzle'. The app plays with 30 tiles and your hand size is three - my top score so far is 119 but I keep improving :-)

Thanks for catching my glaring oversight. I saw the app when I was assembling the show notes and totally forgot to mention it.

Weird that they don't include an AI to play against on the iPhone app. Wonder if they'll include variant rules in the future? No reason you couldn't shove tiles around in real-life and keep score.

Obviously the final word goes to the couple that submitted the Sommelier idea, but I have to give a conditional thumbs down to the 10 Days series.

The problem is, even though the person playing only had use of one hand, the little player in hand has full use of both hands! It won't take long before that little crying/sleeping/eating bundle adds the grabbing skill, and then the order of your tiles might be a little harder to maintain. I think I would avoid games where one quick lunge (they are fast!) can cause a restart.

On the bowl of random pawn pieces; It made me think of one game - Monopoly. Perhaps everyone will come back and tell me that Monopoly started out using little generic color coded plastic pawns, but I think one of the things that led to Monopoly's success was the varied player pieces. How many people have that one piece that they just have to use? Horse? Race Car? Not the iron (say it's not the iron)...

My 1935 box had wooden pawns which, although initially disappointing was apparently the norm for the time. The iconically weird assortment of pieces seems to have evolved a bit more gradually and inconsistently and according to some accounts I've read may have been due to Monopoly being the Cheapass game of its time. People in the 30's customized their sets with many of the little promotional curios that were given as product advertising, something like Cracker Jack prizes. The military pieces were repurposed from Conflict, another less popular Parker title. The ultimate lineup seems so wonderfully random because it originally was just that. Correct period or not, I've gone searching for the "usual suspects" in street markets and the like but still can't find the dog, much to my chagrin. (Strange how having a bloody cannon still doesn't help me persuade an opponent armed only with a pathetic little thimble that giving me Park Place in exchange for 3 railroads is an equitable arrangement.)

Hey guys,

I wanted to let you know that I've posted my feedback on #88 over at Go Forth and Game, my new gaming blog.  Everyone come on over and check it out and let me know what you think.



Thanks for the feedback, Tom! Always glad to hear when we manage to strike a chord on a particular game or segment.