Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves about contemporary cinema is that Hollywood has apparently run out of ideas (actually, they ran out about 20 years ago), and has spent most of it's time "reimagining" or "revitalizing" old stories, characters, plots, etc. For a while, every cartoon you ever watched as a child was getting a blockbuster makeover for theatrical release. From the Flintstones to Transformers to Charlie's Angels, it's recycle, recycle, recycle.
Sadly, it's mostly been trash.
It's a bit alarming to have the revelation that the gaming industry is going through the same problem. How many variations of Carcassone came out before there was one that I'd enjoy playing with gamers (actually, there are two: Discovery and City)? I rarely buy new games anymore, mostly because they feel like yet another permutation of what has become a fixed set of mechanisms, pasted together with a theme that hasn't yet been used. There are exceptions, but in general I feel like I'm just getting yet another hamburger from yet another fast food joint.
So when I read the news that Teuber is going to refresh the Settlers franchise, I know that the golden age of Eurogames is officially over. We all love Settlers, but it never was a particularly good game, at least not with people who figured it out. There are a million expansions, many of which I own, and some actually make it a better game. The sad fact remains that with players of equal calibre it is almost certain doom to be the first person to place your town as you'll also get stuck with the worst place, and two OK sites are considerably better than a great one and a crappy one, especially if you can place them one after the other.
So maybe Settlers needs a bit of an overhaul, but this means that all of the expansions require overhauls as well. Not that I'm teaching a math class here, but my investment in the Settlers system (and we're just talking expansions here, not the card game or the atrocity that was Elasund and Candamir, or Starfarers which I still believe is the best of the bunch) extends to Seafarers, Cities & Knights, Das Buch, three 5&6 player expansion sets to allow me not to have to mix red and orange on the board, both historical expansions, plus three or four mini expansions that let you fish or build a waste management empire (or whatever they happen to be, it's all a blur after a while).
You can see how this would be a commercially appealing idea at a time when putting out a new game, even by an established designer and publisher, is met with a collective yawn. Settlers, rightly or wrongly, has a great reputation with non-hobbyists both here and in Europe. The other day I was in a game store, and a couple came in wanting to buy that "great game they played with friends over the weekend". It's like they drank Nescafe their entire lives and just discovered that McDonald's has OK coffee. God help them if they ever challenge themselves and try *good* coffee, or a *good* game.
I don't mean to dis Settlers - it was a landmark design at the time, and clearly has been a huge hit. I'm simply saying that there are many very good games out there, and Settlers really doesn't compare terribly well to them, even from a non-hobbyist perspective. Ticket to Ride is an excellent game to play with non-hobbyists, as is Carc: The Discovery. And while I *might* consider pulling out Settlers to get non-hobbyists interested in Euros, the simple fact is that it's main competiton is the unholy Triumvirate of Classic Ameritrash titles: Clue, Monopoly, and Sorry. When you play a game that involves few meaningful choices, of course Settlers looks like you've discovered the Promised Land when what you've really discovered is that there's something other than Cleveland.
Sorry, Cleveland. Congrats on that win over the Bengals, though! And I thought you were very nice to that Johnson boy who got lost in the Dog Pound.
So the big gorilla of gaming has decided to put its weight behind recycling their biggest money-maker. If there is a more obvious sign of the Apocalypse of Eurogaming, I really couldn't tell you what it might be. What I can tell you is that I am pretty unlikely to repurchase an entire game line, especially when the last efforts to link new designs to the franchise (Candamir!) were so weak.
On the positive side, the wargaming industry seems to be experiencing a renaissance of new designs, from Combat Commander to MMP's International Gamer's series. See, I like A Victory Lost just fine.