Thursday, February 08, 2018

The SORRY! state of board games

My favorite board game is SORRY! I played it as a kid and then many times with my kids. Somehow the game is constructed so that no matter how big a lead a player might have somehow the end comes down to a nail-biter where anybody can win. It’s truly ingenious. Imagine if basketball games all came down to one last shot. (As it is, I’ve always maintained in the NBA they should just give each team 100 points and let them play for five minutes.)

In SORRY! you have four nubbins that you move around the board trying to get them all across the finish line first. If your nubbin lands on an opponent’s square you bump his nubbin back to “start.” You draw cards with numbers and move backwards and forwards accordingly. It’s deceptively simple, but somehow over the course of the game the race always gets tighter and tighter. A game takes about a half-hour. 2-4 players, from age 6 to adult.

Well, there’s now an updated “new” version. Why? Why fuck with perfection? Each player now only gets three nubbins, card restrictions have been lifted and players move around the board faster. Plus, there’s this new Fire and Ice feature that modifies the rules for nubbins that are assigned one. And this feature has caused additional confusion as there are now situations not explained in the rules.

The point of this new version is what? To speed up the game? A half-hour is too long? To sell new versions to fans of the original? To compete with video games? The president of the company was losing too often to his kids?

Whatever the reason it's just another example of fixing things that aren’t broke. Repealing net neutrality. New Coke. Replacing Scott Pelley. Automatic intentional walks. Blue M&M’s. Crystal Pepsi. Clairol Touch of Yogurt Shampoo. KRTH’s new jingles.

Considering how hard it is to get anything right, when you do, LEAVE IT ALONE. SORRY! but that’s the way I feel.

36 comments :

Peter said...

Up next:

A $200 million SORRY! movie directed by Michael Bay, complete with explosions, low angle shots of blonde babes in skirts, and stereotypical black characters saying "Oh hell naw!"

Matt said...

Sorry is just a bastardized version of Parcheesi.

If they can improve the game they should.

You can still play the old fashioned game.

Roger Owen Green said...

I LOVE SORRY! And it's good enough that a 6-year-old CAN legitimately beat you. Good stuff

Anonymous said...

Bless you, sir. Well said.

Our local vendor of groceries did another complete overhaul. Apparently they intend to make it an annual event. After wasting entirely too much time looking for stuff that I was used to getting on a grab and go basis, I spotted the manager and said, "I really must thank you for fixing that annoying problem I was having of finding things."

And you may wish to consider this: Very high on my annoyance list are web sites mysteriously revamped overnight--usually to make them a hot mess and so totally frustrating that I just give up and move on. It's not like there are enough hours in the day, right?

Ken, as always--appreciate your blog and podcast. Even when I don't stop to comment. Keep up the great work.

Keith

Andrew said...

Actually, repealing net neutrality was like repealing the new Sorry! and returning to the old Sorry! The earlier legislation wasn't necessary to begin with. And if you'll notice, contrary to liberal prophecy, the sky is not falling.

Gloria Hall said...

Many years ago, we found the board and cards of an old Sorry game in the closet, but no "nubbins". So we got 4 different colors of Play-doh, and fashioned our own. Let me tell you... the joy of utterly tearing apart and/or smashing the opponents pieces before sending them back to start, (and forcing the owner to rebuild before their next turn,) was FANTASTIC! We renamed the game "Sorry Assassin" and have never played the old version again! We even bought a new game once, but never used the pieces.

Glenn said...

When I was feeling down as a kid, nothing beat a good game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Thanks to all the smashing, I always felt better, that is, until my mother would throw me and my friends out of the house for all the noise.

Covarr said...

Sorry is barely skill-based anyway. I think they were trying to make it less random and more strategic...

...but players who really want a strategic board game should be playing Stratego, Boss Monster, or Twilight Imperium.

Daver said...

I can't help but think of this memorable Carol Burnett skit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNG1DkS_f4g

Dr Loser said...

@Andrew:

Good of you to refashion the thread as a platform to talk about "net neutrality" and "naughty liberals" and "chicken licken." It's so much better this way.

Have you considered paying a pyschiatrist to listen to this sort of off-topic babble? It's entirely wasted on us.

McAlvie said...

And I bet they raised the price on the game, too. Like with ending net neutrality, somebody who is not you or I is going to profit. I don't think Netflix or Comcast even waited for the ink to dry before they raised their rates. I know that I immediately started having issues, so they were up to something behind the scenes.

What I've noticed with games that produce spin offs is that it is much like spin offs of tv shows, movies and books ... something was working and they want to take advantage of that in a way that might incline you to spend on something you already have without actually producing anything new. However, I have to admit that Sorry! has been spinning off variations practically since the invention of the game; so no matter how tempted we are to yell at those kids to get off our lawn, nothing has really changed.

Keith Nichols said...

I assume that reasons for gratuitously messing with a good product are to sell more of it and to keep your employees busy. This is especially irritating to users of various computer software products. I use Apple products, and Apple often issues revised word-processor and spreadsheet software. Among the revisions are usually features you never needed and don't currently need. And since there are no longer printed user manuals, you have little hope of ever gaining proficiency with them. Additionally, the new software is usually incompatible with preceding versions, which are no longer supported or available for download. But the effort involved in their creation apparently keeps Apple programmers employed.

tb said...

I sell barbecues and there was one that was perfect. Then they just HAD to change it and they ruined it. Still pisses me off. People cannot leave well enough alone

Anonymous said...

You do have the little bell to ring when someone gets sent back, don't you?

Peter said...

Ken, check out this new interview with Quincy Jones. It's hilarious. He uses the word "motherfucker" so many times, it's almost poetic. His comments on The Beatles and Ringo Starr in particular are gold.

http://www.vulture.com/2018/02/quincy-jones-in-conversation.html

John Hammes said...

There will even be an updated, "new", newer version to come.

SORRY NOT SORRY.




... thank you, I'll be here all week ...

Sean Robbins said...

Dude.

I know this post is centered on one particular board game, but the state of board games, or tabletop games has never been better. There are so many cool tabletop games out there from he quick and easy classics to ridiculously complicated D&D dungeon crawlers. Your title would leave me to believe that tabletop gaming is dying, which couldn't be further from the truth.

Ralph C. said...

My favorite board game is Strat-O-Matic Baseball, followed by Strat-O-Matic Basketball and Football. You can play it on a Windows computer but I prefer rolling the dice.

Justin Piatt said...

Played this game with my nephew shortly after he turned five. He won and took almost sadistic joy in getting to send his mother's nubbins back to start (which happened frequently).

Brian said...

It was a great game. Here's a hilarious scene from Mama's family where they played it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNG1DkS_f4g

"Sorry, Sorry, that's my game" (see previous post and watch the clip of John Mahoney on Cheers)

Gary said...

We had some old friends over recently to play the card game Uno, which we all played together in the 1980's. We even bought a new deck for this exciting event. But unbeknownst to us, some genius decided to redesign the cards, so they no longer state the action in words on the card. Instead there are now symbols to indicate "skip," "reverse," "draw four" and so on. How this is an improvement I cannot fathom. But you never saw a more confused group of 60-somethings trying to decipher these symbols! Talk about feeling old...

Donald Benson said...

We didn't have Sorry, but we did spent a lot of time with Scrabble and Monopoly. Both would get contentious with home rules, like whether you could collect rent from a sibling who landed on your property after your other sibling grabbed the dice and rolled before you could say anything. To this day, I usually pack a travel Scrabble set if I'm traveling. The fantasy is finding an attractive seat mate with a large vocabulary.

Life was a favorite for a while, in part because the board had buildings and mountains and stuff and Art Linkletter was on some of the money. At end end you went to Millionaire Acres or The Poor House, depending on how much wealth and family you'd accumulated. I'd like to get that and play it again, but it might cut too close to the bone for a group of players my age.

I had Crazy Clock, a sort of sequel to Mouse Trap: You assembled a Rube Goldberg thing that eventually applied a "lit" candle to a sleeping man's feet and triggered his popping out of bed. We never actually played the game. We just put the thing together and played with it.

Astroboy said...

Ken, concerning the automatic intentional walk: I haven't watched much baseball these past years, but I was watching the World Series and at one point there was a runner on first and I had no idea how he had gotten there, and then they said something about a walk. I got really agitated, LOL! I thought I had blacked out or something! I finally figured out what had happened the next time in the series someone was intentionally walked. But for a couple of minutes there I was freakin' out man, freakin' out!

MikeN said...

Take a look at what they did to Stratego.
Now higher number wins, the number of pieces is down to 30, and the board is a different size. You also have to put stickers on the pieces.
I ended up returning it and buying an older version online.

ScarletNumber said...

@Anonymous 6:35 AM

I think websites have gotten worse because designers are now designing them for smartphones rather than computers. In the past the mobile version was the secondary version, where now for some sites it is primary.

@Donald Benson

The official rule is that once the dice are rolled, you can't collect rent. I'm not sure if this is how you played or not. The fact that some siblings like each other more than others isn't mentioned in the rules.

Andy Rose said...

@Gary: Taking the words out of Uno is an improvement... for Mattel's bottom line. Now they don't have to make multiple versions of every specialty card for different languages. (Western Arabic numerals are used in tons of countries with different languages, so the number cards have always traveled well.)

Bob Claster said...

You need to get your hands on a game called DOG. It's Sorry, but improved. Actually improved. It's a partnership game, and you start out with a hand of cards and can pass some to your partner at the start of each round, like Hearts. It started out in retirement homes, where it was played with a standard parcheesi board and 2 decks of cards. I love SORRY too, but this is well worth hunting down, if you really wanna get serious about the game.

DetroitGuy said...

Completely wrong. All net neutrality did was to ensure the internet stayed the way it was. Repealing net neutrality means that cable companies are free to throttle traffic into fast or slow lanes, to charge websites to remain accessible and to completely block sites that compete with their business model

Andrew said...

@Dr. Loser,
Lighten up. It's a comedy blog.

Mark said...

I’m not sure kids play board games that much anymore. Which is too bad.

I agree with you in general, Ken - leave the classics alone. However, they updated Trouble, with new warp zones, and it is actually an improvement on the original.

WizarDru said...

"I’m not sure kids play board games that much anymore. Which is too bad. "

Kids are playing board games more than they have in years, as it happens.
Sales of board and hobby games topped $1.4 billion dollars last year. Stores like Walmart and Target are carrying more and better games than they have in years.

https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/38012/hobby-games-market-over-1-4-billion

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Ken, I officially volunteer to teach you how to play Texas Hold'Em Poker... ;-)

Marty said...

Here's a hilarious scene from Mama's family where they played it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNG1DkS_f4g

Not to be picky, but to be picky, that sketch is from "The Carol Burnett Show," not "Mama's Family." The series "Mama's Family" ruined the Mama character, in my humble opinion, by taking a mean, hateful, bitter old woman and turning into a loveable old lady who had just a little bit of an edge to her.

It IS a funny sketch, though. Burnett has said that those "Family" sketches were the most popular things they ever did on the show, and it's easy to see why. As awful as they can be to themselves and to each other, there's something real and recognizable in Eunice and Mama and Ed that you weren't going to see in a Mr. Tudball and Miss Wiggins sketch or one of Tim Conway's "The World's Oldest Man" bits. The show received lots of letters about those "Family" sketches from people asking, "How do you know so much about my relatives?"

KoHoSo said...

K-Earth's new jingles? How about K-Earth's new everything? I can't understand why Entercom kept both that station and Jack FM when they now play the exact same music.

Ken said...

A Friday question or two

With the success of first the big bang and now The Good Place ( was it sold as a Big Bang for philosphy?) are exec's running around looking for a new sries based upon Geology, or Chemistry or even esoteric history specialty areas of study? perhaps an antthropology of young quirky students doing field work with a jaded cynical supervisor/teacher? Perhaps archelogy? Can we expect a deluge of "science" based comedy's?

Second question have you ever had a minor character in your show that studio wanted to cut ( save salary?) and it turns out minor as part was it contributed more then was appearent? Were you forced to acquiesse and then discover the need for that specific character? Or were you able to maintain quality of the show?

Mahalo

Kevin Crews said...

Beautifully stated. You cannot improve upon perfection. It is time-tested, so leave it alone.