The Lazy He

While searching through the rule book for ‘Raptor’ (an admittedly great game by everyone’s favorite Brunos) for a bit of errata this weekend, I came across a grossly irritating footnote early on:

Note: throughout this document male pronouns are used for the sake of simplicity and readability. It should be clearly understood that in each instance, we mean to include female players as well.

This is bullshit on so many levels. The most inclusive choice would, of course, be to use the singular they. The most sorry-gaming-is-horribly-patriarchal choice would be to use female pronouns throughout1. And while I hate enforcing the gender binary, the most ‘readable’ choice would be to use male pronouns for Player A and female for Player B or vice versa. ‘Raptor’ is exclusively a two-player game, so all of the included examples rightfully include two players. Switching between two people with a shared set of pronouns is far less readable than unique pronouns for either. Ambiguity is always a potential pitfall of pronoun usage, easily avoidable when you’re dealing with two purely hypothetical humans.

Failing all of the above, however, I’d almost prefer they just used male pronouns throughout and cut out the nonsensical and condescending footnote. The footnote reads as though ‘some woman complained that we did this once and rather than adapt we’re just going to make up a bunch of excuses.’ Whose ‘simplicity’ is this for the sake of? The reader’s? Are we to assume that they are so caught up in the masculine gamer trope that a single female pronoun would cause their brains to shut down, eternally paralyzing them, rulebook still in hand? Or is it for the sake of simplicity on the part of the writers and editors, so lazy and consumed by male hegemony that they can’t even bother to do a find-and-replace on their masculine-as-default pronouns? The message put forward by the footnote is a brutally honest display of privilege: ‘we know we should be more inclusive, but we think it’s simpler not to.’ The footnote does not read as a statement of inclusiveness, rather an outright denial of it and a mockery of the very idea.

Karuba: Solo

Karuba is, essentially, a solo game that two to four players play simultaneously. One player could theoretically play for a high score, but the randomness of the draw makes that a little problematic – and playing to beat a high score outside of the arcade isn’t terribly fun anyway. But as I was playing with the pieces and the tiles and thinking of a simple notation for my aforementioned hypothetical correspondence game1, I accidentally came up with what seems to be a decent solo variant for this game.


I recently received a copy of the 2016 Spiel des Jahres nominee, ‘Karuba’. It’s a tile-laying game of sorts, albeit less free-form and less interactive than Carcassonne. It’s really about solving a puzzle more efficiently than everyone else at the table. I don’t really aim to explain or review the game, however, as plenty such explanations and reviews are already out there. There is one interesting angle that I would like to touch on, however.

I have always been a fan of correspondence chess1, the idea that the game is open, all information is public, and moves are simple enough to easily notate, pass back and forth, and replicate. It was immediately obvious to me that Karuba has a great potential as a correspondence game. Due to the lack of interaction, it will certainly be nothing like chess. But as a casual puzzler, all the pieces are there for correspondence. All information in the game is public. All players start with the same board configuration. All players place the same tile on a given turn. Because of the way this mechanic works, tiles have unique numbers and would just as easily be described in correspondence. To ease in initial setup, rows and columns of the board already have labels. The four explorers every player controls are all unique colors, and can therefore easily be described in notation.

I don’t expect a huge community to explode around correspondence Karuba, but this possible means of play immediately struck me as such a perfect fit. Kind of the icing on an already rather impressive cake.