Teburu or the art of pissing of board gamers

by Tobias Heinzen ,

CMON announced the next big thing in board gaming: Teburu. The promise of bringing the digital and analog world together. If you look at reddit or Board Game Geek the reaction seems to be a different one.

For those who have missed it: CMON has announced a new product that they are launching next year. It consists of a big board with "groundbreaking electronics" (of course marketing BS) that will enhance the gameplay. Here is the trailer for it.

The feedback of the board gaming community was mostly the same: Please no. Most of us board gamers want to enjoy an activity without all the electronics and now they are bringing it right to the table.

To be clear. Everything I write here is pure speculation as concrete details are not known so far.

The idea of bringing in the digital world is of course not something new. Many games have done it before. But the integration was at that point only an app. Most of them were well done and allowed the games to be played solitaire, such as Mansions of Madness or Star Wars: Imperial Assault. But it was optional and the game worked without them. There have even been games, that required an app to play: XCOM: The Board Game - a reason why I don't like that game either. But all had the advantage that you didn't need some extra hardware to play. You only needed a phone or a tablet and were good to go.

This brings up already the biggest critique (apart from the whole electronics at the gaming table debate): Price. That this thing won't be free is pretty clear. We don't know the exact price but it my guess is, it will be something in the 60-80$ price range. And my guess is that is only for the main device. All the extras such as dice etc. will cost extra. And that for every game they will publish.

The argument is of course, you pay this only once and than you can use it for other games too. Yes, this might be true, but you will have to pay extra for the extras to make the game playable with Teburu (such as dice as an example). And in addition you will be locked in to CMON games only (which is of course part of the strategy from CMON, that you will only buy games from them).

Getting replacement parts for your broken dice and clip-on bases won't be cheap either. And from the looks of it, the batteries don't seem to be replacable, you will be getting them sooner or later.

As I said, you will be locked in to CMON products from here on out (maybe they open the system to other publishers, but I doubt that for the moment). If you do not like their other games you will be stuck with a huge investement. The initial cost is also something were gamers might think twice about buying a game that they don't know and just want to have a look into it to see if they like it. A base game of Zombicide would then cost somewhere from 150$ which is quite a sum (even Gloomhaven is cheaper).

The next big critique is the table space needed. The gaming board seems to be quite solid so if you have a small table it will probably take all the space. With only analog components you could rearrange them as you need them on your table. This is something that won't work anymore. Depending on the game most of the board is empty too (from the looks of the trailer). So there's just wasted space there. And then you need to fit a tablet and phones on the table too. And all this needs some power. So portability is also quickly thrown out of the window.

Of course they say: It's a better experience. Enemy behaviour can now be more sophisticated, because your tablet can simulate complicated monster behaviour much easier and quicker. If you want a more sophisticated enemy behaviour choose either a different game or design a better mechanic. There are plenty of games that seem to be able to do this just fine enough with only cards: Gloomhaven, Kingdom Death: Monster, Dark Souls the Board Game just to name a few. This is not something to be attributed by lack of technology but lack of design. Don't get me wrong: I love the mechanics in Zombicide, they're simple and that's good the way it is.

The next argument is, that there will be a way to express a campaign with decisions and immersive story telling. Come on CMON, really? That's what I need in a board game, to be interrupted every minute by some voice on a tablet that tells me what to do next. When I play board games with my friends I want to talk to them and not stare at a tablet. Or maybe I'm just too old for this.

From the discussions on the forums I've also seen a good third critique: Houserules. Zombicide in particular has a community that has a lot of houserules (because the rules are quite open for interpretation to say it nicely) and homebrew content that keeps the games alive. With the app and the integration in their board, this goes away. Which is of course good, because rules get clearer as the computer will enforce them. On the other hand, the community isn't easily able to create new scenarios or new rules to spice up the game. From the looks of it, it doesn't look that it support "modding" - content added by the community.

From the reactions of the board game community it becomes clear, that Teburu isn't probably aimed at the hard core board gamer. But for the casual gamer or video gamer that wants to transition to board games (and for miniature games in this particular instance), I fear the high price might drive off all the gamers that just want to try it out.