Workshop of the World… needs work

A long time ago I played a game called History of the World.  It was long.  It was good.  Years later we still played History of the World, but Hasbro had put out a pretty newer edition with lots of plastic pieces.  Oooh – cool!  But Hasbro stopped making the pretty piece edition, and its value went way high.  I got greedy and sold my plastic piece edition for lots of money, and bought more games with my proceeds.  But I missed it, so I found an old copy of the first Avalon Hill edition with nice cardboard counters.  But I never played it.  The old timers didn’t want to play History of the World anymore, and the newer friends either wanted to play on the plastic piece edition, or just play something more modern.

Then the authors, with the provocative name of “the Ragnar Brothers” released “Fire and Axe“.  Fun game.  Complete with cool plastic pieces, Vikings running amok, and I was thrilled with this new game from the authors of History of the World.  So then I got curious, what else had they done?

Backpacks and BlistersKings and Castles – 1500 Gold.   I tried them, and while each had something interesting to offer, I began to realize the Ragnar’s were not golden.  Some of their games really appealed to me, while others let me cold.  One interesting feature of some of their older games was the tea towel.  Instead of a game board, several of their games feature a printed tea towel.  The Ragnars suggest tossing it in the wash if you spill your beer on the game!  And the towel does seem like a bit of inspiration.  Unfortunately I found the folded edges to never lay flat, so the plastic overlay was generally used.

Then we come to the modern era of Ragnar game releases.  Canal Mania was, I believe, their first effort of producing a modern Euro game that would match up to expected production standards.  They got an attractive box designed, a reasonably good map, and they lost the tea towel for a nice mounted board.  Tiles and cards were generally acceptable.  The game left me a bit cool, but it was reasonably well accepted by the hobby.  It seemed that the Ragnars had arrived!

Next up – Monastery.  A bit of a foul ball.  It’s sort of advanced Carcassonne.  But almost everyone seems deeply sick of Carcassonne.  The playing pieces tended to topple a bit too much, and the theme just wasn’t that enticing for many.

Next – ooh!  A revision to their master piece, now named “A Brief History of the World“.  The game was produced in China, and the cards especially seemed a bit substandard.  But the board was lovely and the box design was fine.  Oddly the rules seemed to be a bit under written, surprising for a game that has had three prior editions.

Now up – Workshop of the World – What happened here?  Several decisions were made in the production of this game that seem like rookie mistakes.  In this game you make in-the-fist bids with coins.  Surely including coins bigger than some players hands must have seemed like a poor decision to someone?  The graphic design of the board is VERY BLOCKY.  Lots of solid primary colors.  Player colors and non-player board colors have no reason to be the same, but they are.  The playing pieces must be placed on top of important game information marked on the board.  So players must constantly shift pieces to see game info.  Shifting the pieces is also dodgy, as the game employs tall cylinders, which are easy to knock over, and then they roll.

Workshop of the World does seem like a decent game.  But the production qualities are horrendous, and actually interfere with the gameplay.  If the Ragnars were releasing their first game, I would just chalk it up to inexperience.  But these guys have been releasing games on their own label for 20 years.  I don’t understand how they allowed these sorts of stupid errors to creep into a game.

I remain a Ragnar fan, but Workshop of the World is not their best effort.


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