Category Archives: Board

To Serif or Not to Serif

The debate of whether or not to use serifs in fonts has raged almost since Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1440. What are serifs, you may ask? Serifs are the little decorative marks on letters, like the bars on the top and bottom of the capital “I”. Sans-serif literally means “without serifs”.

Since I write both fiction and rulebooks, I looked through an assortment of our roleplaying books and novels, and also some boardgame rules.

In our roleplaying books serifs are very dominant. I checked a sampling of our GURPS 3/4e, D&D 4e, OVA, and HackMaster 4/5e books, and they were exclusively serif fonts other than tables and sidebars in HM; sidebars, examples, and sample characters in OVA; and monster blocks in D&D. In other words, they use serifs unless the text is small enough that the serifs might make it harder to read.

Possibly the oldest novel in our collection is my much-loved and rather battered 1978 edition of Heinlein’s Space Cadet. It uses sans-serif for chapter headings and page headers, but serifs otherwise. My wife’s 2013 library book is the same – and some people say that’s the problem, but I’ll go into that shortly.

Boardgame rules are less cohesive simply because they come in a number of formats: sheet or two of paper, pamphlet, booklet, the box or similar material (Ultimate Stratego’s rules are written on the card used to divide the board while players set up). From what I have seen, those that print on card- or pasteboard tend to use serifs, while those on simple paper don’t. Munchkin uses fonts that fit the game’s mood, resulting in a mixture of serif and sans fonts in booklets. Pyramid Arcade includes a 75-page rulebook, entirely in sans serif.

The serif debate is as nuanced as any, but most people seem to fall into one of two groups:
* In long lines of uninterrupted text serif fonts are easier to read because the serifs help guide the eye.
* Sans-serif fonts are “cleaner”, and therefore easier to read. Serif fonts only seem easier to read because they are what we are used to.

I fall into that first group, but also agree that sans-serif fonts look “cleaner”, but in mixed case sans serifs can be confusing. Think of how the word Illinois looks without its serifs. In all caps or or all lowercase it doesn’t matter, but in mixed case capital “I” and lowercase “l” look exactly the same.

As a compromise I have developed the habit of using sans-serif (Arial for screen or Verdana for print) for headings, especially if they are all caps, and serif (Times New Roman) for text. Purely out of curiosity, I mocked up a fake page from my roleplaying game’s rulebook with one written completely in Times New Roman (right), and the other with Verdana headings (left).

Font Test with mock up of rpg rulebook page

So which do you prefer?

Happiness Jar #8 for 2017-04-09

Steve Jackson just released a newly-updated ”Munchkin Thingies”. As a result I was finally able to fill in some gaps in my Munchkin Compatibility Chart, and add in the recently Kickstarted Munchkin Shakespeare (we’re excited about getting our copy).

I’m also finally getting around to moving my files over to the desktop computer I built last summer, and it’s going pretty smoothly, in large part thanks to Box and Mega because they automated the transfer of nearly all of my documents. Going from 4 to 16 gigs of memory for Windows 10 is a dream – even more so since Windows itself is on a solid state drive (SSD), which I bought thanks to the advice of one of my best friends since high school.

Free Win7/10 tip I just learned: You can move your My Documents folder quite effortlessly by simply right-clicking on it in the folder tree in Explorer, clicking Properties, then the Location tab. That’s great because SSDs have limited read/write cycles, while mechanical drives can generally be re-used until something actually breaks. Thus if you can keep your software on an SSD and data files on a mechanical drive, your programs will run much faster, but without frequent saves wearing the drive out prematurely (my motto is “save early, save often” to avoid losing my work).

And we had several TCG-related happinesses over the past week: We got this Saturday’s Pokémon League Cup scheduled (with a Magic prerelease next week and Pokémon one the next), and I got to play in a sealed/demo for the Final Fantasy TCG. I can best describe FFTCG as Duel Masters or Kaijudo if they had been designed for adults rather than children. It moves the complexity scale a bit towards the Magic end, and even borrows some of its keywords (Haste, First Strike) and renames some others to make them better fit (Vigilance is “Brave”, Tap is “Dull”, Untap is “Activate”, etc.).

I can only make two relatively minor complaints about the game so far: the colors are too similar (Water and Ice are both blue, and Lightning is a very blue purple), making it hard to tell them apart, especially when foils get involved; and all of the power ratings end with “000” for no apparent mechanical reason – what I call the “Yu-Gi-Oh effect” or “Pokémon Effect”. In Pokémon every damaging move and every Pokémon HP is a multiple of 10, so you could erase that 0 from every card in the game and it would have no effect whatsoever. D&D 4e’s half-level bonus and 5e’s quarter-level bonus likewise serve only to make the numbers seem bigger even though they don’t actually make any difference mechanically since DCs and ACs go up right along with them.

But this is a Happiness jar, and that goes against the spirit of the idea, so I’ll get off my tangent now, and simply say that if you liked Duel Masters/Kaijudo but thought it was a bit too simplistic, or simply love Final Fantasy, give the game a look (they’ve got some great how-to-play videos. Even if you don’t play it, the cards are the highest quality CCG cards I have ever seen – and I owned an FLGS for three years! They are the same size as Magic cards, but significantly stiffer. If you were to look at the back of one without touching it, you would swear it was plastic, not paper. The art, of course, is amazing. So if you are an FF fan but don’t play card games, it still might be worth a look.

Munchkin and Pokémon Updates

I’ve spent most of the past month test driving Windows 10, and the month before that trying to repair my badly-broken Win7 that it has replaced, so I haven’t had much time for blogging, but I have updated several of my game aids.

This year for Small Business Saturday we decided to #ShopSmall by finally picking up Munchkin Steampunk at our FLGS, Hillside Games in Asheville, NC. As a result I was at last able to finalize its entry on my Munchkin Compatibility Chart.

I also updated the deck list sheet for Pokemon tournaments just in time for our Nature Season League Challenge this Saturday, and the Tech Season one on Boxing Day.

Thanks to my wife finally having a job after spending two years without one, we finally got normal-sized 3DSes as well as Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire on eBay, prompting me to finish updating my Pokémon Pocket-sized Type and EV List.

Old Family + New Friends + New Games = Great Vacation

Because my family is shotgunned all over the southeastern US, my parents rent a vacation home for a week every summer so we can all get together. This year was at Carolina Beach a couple of weeks ago. Overall it was great, and I especially enjoyed getting acquainted with the new boyfriend of one of my nieces, even more especially because he’s a gamer, too. He introduced us to an amazing Czech boardgame called Dungeon Petz.

Sadly, my wife Lura got sick on Tuesday (our “not-quite vegetarian” diet doesn’t work at all with my family’s standard American diet, which we inevitably end up eating on vacation) and didn’t recover until after we got home, so she didn’t get to play. Before that, however, we finally got to play Mr. Card Game with more than just the two of us for only the second time, so that was cool, even though my niece got bored and her boyfriend won, just like the last person we taught to play the game (who also happens to be the best board game player we’ve ever met). I am also happy to report that our FLGS can special order Dungeon Petz for us just as soon as Lura’s new job makes it possible – the first job she’s had in two years, I should add. We’re really praising God for that one!

It also would have been more fun if I hadn’t fallen up the stairs and twisted my foot the first morning, forcing me to miss out on the aquarium trip, but an Ace bandage got me up and moving again, so it wasn’t too bad.

One advantage of needing to keep my foot propped up while Lura was too sick to do anything and the rest of the family was at the beach is that I got a little bit of work done on my various game aids. I may even have finally finished my D&D character library spreadsheet, but I want to use it myself a bit longer to be sure since I keep finding things I need to add to it (most recently an XP box). I am nearly done with my GURPS character creator as well, but just learned that Steve Jackson has very strict rules about how they want to be cited in fan projects, so I’ve got to go back and change that section in my two GURPS spreadsheets, and figure out how to unobtrusively add it to my character sheet. I also need to find out if Wizards of the Coast has a similar policy.

Now that I’m back from vacation and mostly recovered from it I can get back to work writing and finishing up game aids. I decided to add boxes around the various sections of the top matter on my modular D&D character sheet, and am also experimenting with edge-to-edge printing of some of the pages in order to maximize how much space players have to work with, but so far my test prints have failed because our printer is behaving oddly.  I assume it’s due to needing a new color cartridge even though what I’m printing is black and white. I suspect it’s trying to use blue for the faint grey lines and text, and that’s why they aren’t showing up. Once I get that tackled I should have what I hope will be the final version of my character sheet unless Wizards releases another class with a unique mechanic that would benefit from having a custom sheet.

On a related note: would a sheet with a dedicated section for a pet/familiar be useful? On the front or back? If I don’t put it on the front I will have to either make multiple backs again, which I won’t since it defeats the purpose of my adaptable sheet, or simply make a back that includes the animal with the inventory. It would be easy enough to free up sufficient space above the right-hand column on the two-column inventory sheet (page 4).

Munchkin Compatibility Chart

After spending a couple of hours searching I was surprised to find that there wasn’t any sort of reference to tell you which Munchkin games are compatible, other than Munchkin Thingies, a free download from Steve Jackson Games. The problem is that it’s a thorough 15-page slog, which makes it fantastic for researching your next purchase but useless when staring indecisively at the FLGS shelf. To that end I used the headings in Thingies to make this handy reference table. Now you can tell at a glance which new Munchkin games are compatible with the ones you already have.

Game Classes Races Unique
Munchkin X X
Munchkin Apocalypse X
Munchkin Axe Cop X
Munchkin Bites! X
Munchkin Booty X Accents
Munchkin Conan X X Birthrights
Munchkin Cthulhu X
Munchkin Fu X
The Good, the Bad and the Munchkin X
Munchkin Grimm Tidings X
Munchkin Impossible X Loyalties
Munchkin Legends X X
Moop’s Monster Mashup X X
Munchkin Oz X
Munchkin Pathfinder X Factions
Munchkin Shakespeare X X
Star Munchkin X X
Munchkin Steampunk X
Super Munchkin X
Munchkin Zombies Mojos

Last updated 2017-04-09.

The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use with Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.