A game’s errata lists the errors found in the rulebook, as well as on various components, such as boards, cards, tiles or counters. It mainly addresses production errors such as typos and misprints, oversights or duplications. Occasionally it includes more serious errors such as rules and design errors.
As soon as a problem has been confirmed, serious publishers will post errata sheets on their website and on forums such as BGG, and update their living rules. Yet errors that are caught early enough allow the publisher to include an errata sheet in the game box.
Looking for an errata before learning a game is a good idea, especially if the game has been out for a while. Gamers do what they can to address errors listed in errata. Obtaining a revised version of the rulebook is simple thanks to living rules. But correcting mistakes that affect a game’s equipment can be more cumbersome and sometimes involve sleeving cards, applying stickers on a map or counters, or even touching up tiles using a Sharpie. More and more publishers include printable image files with their errata, so that owners of the game can produce themselves replacement cards or paste-ups.
Errata are usually official in the sense that they are posted by the publisher, and the fixes they contain have been written, or at least approved, by the game’s designer. But sometimes the fans of a game will track and collect various interventions by the designer in a game’s discussion threads, and compile them in a single errata document.
Just like video games, it happens that published board games, without being necessarily broken, suffer from important flaws. And there’s only so much an errata can do against balance issues, overpowered elements or dominant strategies. Firstly because such problems can be difficult to measure with any precision, let alone be confirmed as flaws and fixed; secondly because fixing them can entail changes that are wide-ranging. That’s why such flaws need only be suspected for the problematic elements to be banned from tournaments (cards are regularly banned from Agricola (Rosenberg, 2007) or Magic: The Gathering (Garfield, 1993) tournaments, for example). At best, when a fix to a major issue is possible, it is more likely to come out in a revised new edition of the game itself.
As in any non-trivial production, errors in tabletop games are simply unavoidable. Too many errors, or errors that are left unfixed, can have dire consequences on the success of a game and on a publisher’s or a designer’s reputation. The key is the effort they’re willing to invest in trying to prevent as many errors as they can, as well as the way they choose to address those that they couldn’t.
References and Further Browsing
- Regarding board game errata
- Errata, on Dictionary.com
- Errata sheet for A Feast for Odin (2016)
- Card errata for Cruel Necessity (2013)
- Agricola: Broken/Banned Cards, on Boardgamegeek
- Magic: The Gathering: Want to know why certain card is banned? Ask it here!, on Boardgamegeek
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