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Mikko Saari Plays Board Games in Tampere, Finland

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This week Mikko Saari, web writer and reviewer, tells us about Finland and its growing gaming scene. Of course the famous Finnish practice of sauna came up and to my surprise there is a connection to board gaming.
July 31, 2004

Note: all links cited are repeated at the end of the interview for handy reference.

Q1. Thanks a lot for agreeing to do this. Can you share a little bit with the readers by introducing yourself, in which corner of the world you live, how you like to spend your time and also how you got started in games?
Sure. My name is Mikko Saari (my last name means "island" in English – Finnish family names are usually nature-related). I'm 23 years old and study Information studies at the local university. I'm hoping to become a librarian one day. I live with my soon-to-be-wife, Johanna.

I live in Tampere, which is in Southern Finland. It's one of the biggest cities in Finland, with its humble population of approximately 200,000 citizens. It's the perfect place for me, really – enough action, but not too much. Finland is located between Sweden and Russia. Finland is also between 60 and 70 degrees north latitude – that's the same as Alaska, the northern wastelands of Canada and most of Siberia. So, my corner of the world is somewhat remote and northern, but believe it or not, it's rather pleasant here. Being so far north has its downsides (not much sunlight during the winter, summers can be a bit cold) and upsides (proper seasons, like real winters with lots of snow and lots of sunlight during the summer).

A large amount of my time is spent by the computer. I maintain my website. I'm into blogging these days and I maintain four blogs, including Gameblog. I also do lots of writing: I write music reviews for the Finnish metal magazine Hamara and write game descriptions and a column for the new Finnish board game webshop. I collect CD's – I still have more CD's than games, by far.

I also play games, naturally. Perhaps we'll leave the board games for later, I'm sure you'll return to that... I also play video games with Johanna. We spend quite some time with our baby, Nintendo Gamecube. She's not into board games, really, but we play console games together.

I've been a gamer my whole life. I had lots of board games when I was a kid, I played with my brother and our friends. We had mostly rather basic games. I remember enjoying Hotels, Talisman, Monopoly, a Finnish stock exchange game Nurkanvaltaajat, Trivial Pursuit, Uno ... Very typical games. One of my biggest favourites was actually a Spiel des Jahres winner – Scotland Yard – although I cared little about that back then. It's probably my fondest childhood board game memory.

We've had a computer since I was four or five, so that's been pretty important for me the whole time. When Magic: the Gathering landed in Finland back in 1994, I became involved with that for a while. I've been interested in role playing games since I was ten until I gave that up last year. For few years, I was heavily into live-action role playing, when it came to Finland around 1995. That lasted for few years until I realized it wasn't the thing for me.

So yeah, I've been playing all sorts of games for most of my life. Currently board games are the number one thing for me, I'm most involved in that and console games are my other favourite. I think they complement each other nicely, both offer things the other format cannot.

Q2. Where do you play your games? In homes or in public places? How many conventions do you attend in a year?
Mikko Saari headshot
Most of my boardgaming happens in the context of our board game club. It's a very unofficial group, which I started back in December 2000 to get some people to play the games with. Originally I wanted to invite some people to play games at my place, but there was so much demand that I started a club. It meets about once a month, sometimes more often. We have a pretty nice location here, a club room in the student apartment building where I live. We have also had weekly meetings in the various cafes at the campus area. Those meetings have been focused on Go and card games and fairly successful. Playing Hammer of the Scots in the university cafe attracted some attention...

Whenever there's need or chance, I like to invite people to my home to play – there's the advantage of having my whole collection available. As far as I know, most people meet at someone's home. All universities have role playing associations and these days I believe all of them have board game activities as well, just as we have here in Tampere. These groups are usually open to general public, too, but little known outside the student population.

There's at least one group in Espoo that meets every week in a local library (the library has even bought some games, that's pretty neat), some groups meet in bars... Many bars seem to have some games (Trivial Pursuit is a favourite), so I guess they welcome people with their own games as well. Of course there's lots of game action in game stores, but there aren't many in Finland outside Helsinki. In general there are no typical public places where to play, nothing like the Korean board game cafes.

The convention scene is pretty good, the biggest being Ropecon, which is actually next weekend. It gathers several thousand Finnish gamers. There's a large board game area, I believe. At least they have the Finnish championships for Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan there. In my opinion Ropecon is too big, I don't like it. There are smaller conventions, too. The Finnish Diplomacy Association has its annual FinDipCon, which has been nice. They have also done another smaller board game convention in Helsinki in the last two years. A friend is mostly responsible for that. Those have been very nice, if a bit smallish (say, few dozen visitors). The Finnish equivalent of the Gathering of Friends is hosted by the owner of the Finnish game store Puolenkuun pelit, who invites 30 or so people to his home twice a year. That's the only invitation-only event I know of.

So, there are some conventions. Board game-only conventions tend to be very small. I think the number of people willing to travel around Finland for gaming weekends is fairly small. There's this small group of active gamers and then there are the locals who only participate in home town events. There's certainly room for more events, but of course it's a space issue, mostly. Heck, I'd set up a convention of my own, if I had a good, cheap location for it...

The Finnish Diplomacy Association has been quiet recently, which is unfortunate. It's long-time chairman ended his reign last year and I, equally long-term secretary, quit as well. The new chairman hasn't been that active and the association has some kind of identity crisis now ... I hope it's going to resurrect itself as a general board game association, which would be good for the Finnish board game hobby. FDA has been an important organizer of larger events and FinDipCon has served other board games as well as Diplomacy.

Q3. How do people in your area acquire the games? Mostly from the Helsinki game shops? Do you order from across the Baltic? Unlike those of your Scandinavian neighbors, Finnish is not a Germanic language, not even an Indo-European one, so do you tend to use German or English rules? Is there any kind of database web site supporting translations into Finnish?
Most people buy their games from the few Helsinki shops, yes. Finland's first and foremost hobby store is Fantasiapelit and also there is the originally Magic-oriented Safe Haven. The latter owns the Lautapelit.fi brand and has really shined recently. There are Fantasiapelit stores in some of the larger cities, but those usually have poorer selections on board games. There are some other stores, too, but they play a minor role.

When ordering abroad, Germany is number one. I've done some orders from UK, but Germany is always a better option if possible. Ordering from the US is usually out of question, because of taxes. Thanks to the EU, no taxes are included when you buy stuff inside the EU. Adam Spielt is probably the favourite, but other shops are also used, especially the one offering payment by European money transfer, thus making life easier to those without credit cards. (I believe credit cards aren't as easy to get here as they are in States.)

Generally people read English very well here. We start to study English at third grade and continue it throughout the educational system. The American mainstream culture is also very strongly present – TV and movies aren't dubbed, for example. Thus, everybody is pretty good with English. German speakers are more rare, thus people prefer English games. However, Finnish gamers aren't usually afraid of German editions with English rules.

On my games website I do have some translations, mostly for card games and other shorter stuff. That's the best database there is, about 40 games or so. I have also written translations for Safe Haven to hand out with the games they sell.

There are few Finnish games. This summer saw the release of both Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan in Finnish (I translated the latter) and that's kind of curious, as both are now competing for the Finnish game of the year. Fantasiapelit has done some Finnish editions, too (most notably Citadels). Swedish Midgaard has released at least a Finnish edition of Lost Cities and maybe some others as well. Of the major companies, Ravensburger has done some pan-Scandinavian editions, Tikal being the finest example.

So for most it's English editions bought from Helsinki game shops and for more serious hobbyists, German editions from Adam Spielt or other cheap shops. After all, the German prices can be less than half of the Finnish price.

Q4. Do you have any ideas how many people in your country are playing the newer strategy games? Any idea what the demographics are like? Whats the overlap with RPG, CCG, war games, computer games, video games, comic books, anime? Are there any special reasons why gaming is popular or not there?
It's hard to estimate the numbers, but as far as I know Carcassonne has sold perhaps thousand or two copies. I think the number of serious board gamers in Finland is less than thousand. I personally know several dozen, but considering all the people who play with their friends, it'll probably reach several hundred. My poll for the best board games last year got a little over 200 responses.

Demographics are very much young male adults. Women are a minority, but that's common to all gaming in Finland except live-action role playing, where women might actually be a majority. When it comes to age, most of the board games people I know are 18-30, I'd say, and that's probably the most typical age group.

I think there's considerable RPG overlap, because of the university role playing clubs are an important gaming environment. I think there are lots of RPG people who play games like Munchkin and Chez Geek ... There's probably some CCG overlap, too, because that's what the shops sell most. I'd say serious war gamers are a fairly small minority in Finland. They also tend to be older, having come into the hobby back in 1980's or so.

Of course, computer games are more popular, but I think there are lots of people who are really into games, not just particular kinds of games. People who might enjoy RPGs or computer games have generally been really open for board games, too. I haven't faced any resistance to board games for reasons such as "they're so old-fashioned" or "who cares about board games anymore".

I think we're about to see growth in the Finnish board game scene. Thanks to the Finnish editions of Catan and Carcassonne, more people will be exposed to the wonders of modern board games. I hope that will expand the hobby a bit. More gamers wouldn't be a bad thing, not at all.

Q5. Are there any traditional board or card games, perhaps even non-proprietary, that have particular popularity in your country and how have they informed the gaming scene?
The Finnish board game is Afrikan tähti [Star of Africa]. It's over 50 years old and known outside Finland (in Europe mostly – at least some Scandinavian and UK gamers seem to know it. It's also a rare in the respect that the designer – Kari Mannerla, who has done nothing else of interest as far as I know – is fairly well known. However, the game is rather boring roll-and-move children's game, but it's something everybody knows here. It's probably even more popular than Monopoly.

I don't know of any other interesting Finnish board games. Most releases are translations of foreign games, mostly the American mainstream. If you want traditional Finnish games, it's card games you turn to. There are several interesting games: Tuppi (a poor man's Bridge, it's a very popular Whist variant), Ristikontra (a trick-taking game with very few relatives), Marjapussi (Marriage game) and so on. Most of these games aren't popular with younger folk, though. Tuppi, however, seems to enjoy steady popularity with people from Northern Finland. I like Huutopussi, an auction variant of Marjapussi. My mother introduced me to Ristikontra when I was younger.

Finnish game design is very quiet. There aren't many publishers; French-Finnish Tactic is the biggest one. Their games seem to be mostly by French designers, though – Bombay Bazaar is one of their better games. Game designers in Finland seems to be stuck in the roll-and-move age. However, I know several gamers who are interested in game design and Tactic has displayed interest in new game designs, so perhaps a new generation of Finnish game designers is coming sooner or later.

Q6. I find it interesting that the pagat.com description of Marjapussi is supplied by Frank Nestel, the inventor of Mü. Ristikontra sounds like an interesting game to try as well. With this noted, let's move on.
What games seem the most popular there? Any games which have found particular success that may surprise us living elsewhere? There is a list on BGG which indicates that El Grande is better loved in Finland than in most places. Does this make any sort of cosmic sense to you or is it more likely to just be a small sample set?
Well, ice hockey is probably more popular here than anywhere else in the world, bar Canada. When it comes to board games, I'm not sure if there are any trademark games ...

Checking last year's poll, El Grande was fourth on the list, right after the ever-popular Puerto Rico, Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan. I think one of the reasons is that it's an older game and thus perhaps better known. I think the number of people in Finland who have all the newest games is limited. I wouldn't consider doing a poll where people are only allowed to vote on new releases. In that poll, the best-ranking 2003 release was Amun-Re, in tenth place.

In general, I don't think the poll results are that surprising. People like their Settlers of Catans and Carcassonnes. I think they are two of the most played games right now. Games like Citadels, Munchkin and Chez Geek seem to be pretty popular, too. No surprises there, I guess.

On the more surprising side, Wallenstein seems to be rather popular and Isis & Osiris has been played a lot in our club. Our club's all-time top five are, in this order, Isis & Osiris, Carcassonne, Crokinole, Spacewalk, Web of Power. Spacewalk is a bit of a surprise, I suppose. But it's cheap, because it's a Finnish release and it's a fun, quick game which was very popular in 2002. It's hardly been played since. Since I got my Crokinole board back in October, it's been the most played game in our club.

Q7. You touched on it already, but is there anything more you would like to say about the history and present of home-grown game publishing? I have a version of Linie 1 from a Swedish company which has both Swedish and Finnish rules. Is this a common arrangement? Also, there is a long border with Russia. Are there any game products or influence coming form that direction?
As I said, there are very few publishers. Tactic is pretty much the only one doing interesting games (every now and then). The rest do children's games or party games. And little of it is Finnish; most games are just translations.

Ravensburger games, for example, always seem to have rules in all four Scandinavian languages and language-independent components. That's good, because otherwise there would be fewer games available. I can't imagine they would've made a Finnish-only version of Tikal, for example. Of course, Swedish rules are necessary also because of the Swedish minority in Finland. Swedish is an official language in Finland. Therefore, if the game's components are language independent, Finnish games will also have Swedish rules. I actually think your Linie 1 might be a Finnish edition. It would be more typical for a Finnish game to have Swedish rules than vice versa. Midgaard Games has been a pleasant exception, at least their Lost Cities has Finnish rules, too.

When it comes to Russia – well, the cultural influences are significant. We have a common border and what's more important, Finland was part of Russia for over a hundred years. However, modern Finnish culture has little in common with Russia. The American culture is just more tempting. I don't even know any Russian games (except a few card games I've read about on Pagat. I think, though, that Finnish-Russian cultural exchange is growing slowly.

Swedish games aren't too common either, with the exception of Svea Rike, which is quite popular. That's explained, of course, by the fact that in that game, you can bring the Swedish empire to ruin and liberate Finland from Swedish control ... It is also the only game I know to feature my home province.
San Francisco game
San Francisco, the Finnish
version of Linie 1

Q8. The publisher of that Linie 1 version was Nelospelit, by the way. Are they Swedish or Finnish? Are they still publishing games? If so, what?
You seem to have anticipated my next question. What is your impression of any games that have been set in your country? Have any of them received special attention or popularity because of it? Are there any kind of recurring motifs, even stereotypes, in these games on which you would like to comment?

Oh, I was right. Nelospelit is Finnish. They are still active – they're just called Tactic now.

Finland is seen very rarely in games. Svea Rike is one of the best ... Diplomacy is another classic one, featuring Finland as a fairly worthless Russian province (which was probably true back then). There are several war games about the Winter War – it's considered a downright miracle that Finland survived the Soviet Union's onslaught and therefore it's certainly an interesting scenario for games.

If there's a game about Hanseatic trade, Finland might appear. At least Kogge has Turku, which was the most important Finnish town back then. Usually Finland is cropped out, as is the case with the forthcoming Age of Steam Scandinavia map. I'm quite sure the European Ticket to Ride map won't feature Finland either. Europatour is a rare exception. But it's understandable: Finland is so far from Central Europe, separated by the Baltic Sea, so it's just plain inconvenient to include us.

Thus, so far nobody has made a decent board game about Finland. Maybe one day we can have a discussion about recurring motifs and stereotypes present in games about Finland, but right now there's very little to say about the topic ...

Q9. Finland was omitted from SPI's Empires of the Middle Ages too, although I added it for the pbm version I ran in the 1980's. I suggested it be added for the new edition, but I doubt it will make it. There have been some interesting studies about the DNA of the Finnish population recently – perhaps that will interest someone for a game one day. I also have a game idea about a prominent Finn which may see the light of day someday I hope.
Anyway, is there any mass media presence for board games there and what is the nature of that presence? Is there any mass market advertising for board games? Any Sunday newspaper columns about board games?
Prominent Finn... Interesting. I certainly hope there would be more games about Finns or Finland available.

Mass media presence for board games is miserable and random. Nobody reviews board games. There are occasional articles (I had my share in a few of them last fall), mostly before Christmas and around the Game of the Year awards (which are also a very silent affair). Perhaps once in a while some magazine tests children's games or a games magazine might have a small and superficial review of some game, but it's quite rare.

I think that's one thing that is needed here: regular board game reviews in some major magazines or even in the games magazines. Nobody seems to think board games are worth reviewing, though, and that's boring.

Last year I was surprised when Marek Toy ran some TV advertising for their games (the Finnish edition of Die Neuen Entdecker and some party game). The commercial even mentioned "the world famous" Klaus Teuber. They will do the same thing this year with Settlers of Catan. Most of the advertising is, anyhow, centered for the Christmas season. I believe most of mainstream board games are sold around Christmas.

Q10. I suddenly recall that some of Tolkien's work is based on the Finnish national epic myth, The Kalevala. In that light I guess there are actually an awful lot of Finnish games! Have no games been done directly on Finnish mythology then?
Kalevala book cover
Well, some of it, yes. The elven languages have a Finnish influence and the tale of Turin Turambar [in The Silmarillion] is a direct rip-off from The Kalevala.

The only game of Finnish mythology I know is ANKH, which was a pretty bad role-playing game back in the late 1980's or so. There are probably other role-playing games, too, but no board games I know of. Now there's a theme, I guess, especially as one could sell it with the Tolkien connection. "Hey, Tolkien liked this so much he learnt Finnish!"

Q11. What is the societal view of board games and their players?
"Board games are for kids." I recently read an article about a generation that doesn't want to grow up, people who are 30-something and play games, party and whatever. It had an annoying tone, like people are wasting their lives if they want to have some fun in their lives.

That said, there's the fact that people who have grown up with video games won't stop playing games when they grow up. The average age of people playing games is going to go up slowly, but surely. I was somewhat amazed when I read about the Spiel des Jahres jury on Mik Svellov's web site. You know, I expected adults, but their average age was over 50! That wouldn't happen in Finland!

So, I think games in general are still considered something children do and thus not respected much as an adult activity (except for party games). However, that is changing. The success of the Finnish computer game Max Payne has been in the news and people are probably figuring out that the game business isn't small and insignificant. Things like that and the growth of academic game studies will eventually increase the appreciation of game culture and board games will, I hope, get their share. Also, getting more serious and more fun board games to the stores might help as well.

Right now if you tell someone you're into board games, you'll probably pique their interest. You usually have to explain a bit about the games you play. I usually use Die Macher as an example of a game for adults; it's such a wonderful example (and a very good game, too).

Q11. Getting a bit more personal, what makes the games fun and interesting for you? What are some of your most favorites? Whats your favorite game that few, or at least few around you, seem to like? Do you have a favorite type or type that you are best at, e.g. war, heavy, abstract, auction, bluff, business, tile placement, etc.?
As Alfred Wallace put it in his blog, enjoyment of games stems from three factors: intellectual (mechanics), imaginative (theme) and social (people). For me, the intellectual factor is of highest importance, followed by the social aspect. I like a game that presents a good challenge for the brain.

I have a very strong dislike of games played just for fun, just to pass time. The Great Dalmuti is a good example. It's more of an activity than a game, I'd much rather play Tichu or Gang of Four than Dalmuti. Funny theme and stupid mechanics is a combo that just doesn't cut it for me. I played Munchkin once and that was quite enough. Don't get me wrong – I play because it's fun, sure, but I just feel like I'm wasting time playing something meaningless. (I recently had that feeling playing Aquarius, which is simply pointless as a game). Light, even silly games can be fun, but that has more to do with the people I play with than the games. Finstere Flure is a good example of a game that is both very entertaining as a social activity and a good game, too.

I like Go. I've played it a lot in the last two years or so. I usually prefer less abstract games, though. Of eurogames, I most like Puerto Rico. As I already mentioned, Die Macher is also a favourite of mine. Of recent games, I'm most enamoured of San Juan, Attika and Memoir '44. Older favourites of mine include Web of Power and Ricochet Robot.

Of games I like but few others do ... Well, I just love Sunda to Sahul. The turns version is rather boring, but the no-turns blitz game is great. In general, I love real-time games and Sunda to Sahul is best. I'm also attracted to the weirder side of trick-taking games, like Dia de los Muertos, Flaschenteufel and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. In general I like card games a lot – mostly because they are cheap and don't take much space (always an important issue).

When it comes to mechanics, there are some I like above others. I like economic buildup games and games featuring a very tight budget and thus agonizing decisions. Puerto Rico, Age of Steam, Funkenschlag (Power Grid), St. Petersburg – all incorporate both aspects – I love all of them. Auctions can spice up a game and provide tension, but I find Modern Art spectacularly boring. I don't like too much chaos – I used to like many Faidutti games, but these days I'm not too fond of most of them. I'm also always in for a word game.

I must admit I'm a sucker for pretty art and components as well. Franz Vohwinkel is the best there is – the whole mask game trilogy is just fabulous. I'd also like to point out the Days of Wonder art team of Cyrille Daujean and Julien Delval, who have done lots of good work recently. Ta Y is also one of the games I just adore because of the components – and of course Mahjong.

When it comes to theme, I'm not too critical. I prefer interesting and unique themes rather than the same old fantasy and Renaissance Italy. St. Petersburg, Die Macher and Flaschenteufel, for example, have interesting themes.

Q12. "Mask games", that's a new one for me. I think I know which ones you mean, but perhaps you can clarify?
I have been enjoying party games such as Barbarossa and Balderdash recently and find myself wondering whether you enjoy this sort of game at all? Or do Finns prefer the famous sauna for social relaxation?
Tikal cover
Mexica cover
"Mask Games"
Oh, of course, "Mask games" is something of an unofficial term that many might not know. I'm referring to the trilogy formed by Tikal, Java and Mexica, all of which have a picture of a mask on the box cover. All are gorgeous. In Tikal, it's the slowly opening village and the very beautiful colours of the pieces, in Java the super thick tiles, in Mexica the blue of the lake and the pretty pyramids. (I was a bit worried about the plastic pyramids first, but the detail they have and the really well-chosen colours make it work).

I have nothing against party games, however, there the company is more critical. It's hard to have fun with a party game if the party is boring ... Anyway, Cranium finally made its way to Finland and I played it earlier this spring. I have picked up a "vibe of despise" towards Cranium by American gamers, but I think it's pretty good. We played the English edition, which made it even more interesting (though the spelling tasks are way too easy – I can't see what's so tricky about spelling words), especially when it comes to idioms that have no equivalent in Finnish.

My favourite party game is probably Scattergories, but then again, I'm a word person. It's a good game, because it works really well with large crowds (we had fourteen) without slowing down, thanks to the simultaneous action. It has also this mad rush effect caused by the limited time.

Sauna is also quite important part of many Finnish game events. That also means that Finnish geeks aren't as smelly as could be expected. Well, the whole "geeks smell bad"-thing is an annoying stereotype we should get rid of, because in general I don't think it's true. But yeah, sauna is a brilliant way to relax and have a chat with your mates. Of course, unlike party games, it works solitaire as well.

Q13. I suspect the rest of the world doesn't know much about sauna and certainly not about how it would fit into a games event. Please say more?
Sure! Sauna is a small room with a box full of stones that are heated up (it's called a kiuas), by fire or by electricity. When the temperature of the air in sauna reaches 60 degrees Celcius, it's ready, though some people prefer higher temperatures (up to something like 120 degrees – worry not, air is notoriously bad heat conductor). Water is thrown on the stones (that's called löyly) where it instantly turns to steam and causes a nice breath of really hot air to fill the sauna.

Hardcore sauna fans can spend hours that way, but most people are happy with 20 minutes or so. People usually take some breaks, too, to get some cool air. If the sauna is by a lake (as they often are, except in city apartments), it's typical to take a swim. Whether the lake is frozen or not doesn't matter to some people. During winter it's also typical to go directly from sauna to running about in the snow. That's not for the faint of heart! I've certainly never done it.

Sauna is a hot, steamy and sweaty place where people are generally naked, but there's little sexual about it. Unfortunately in many places saunas have that kind of meaning ... Men and women don't usually go to sauna together, unless they're a family. Sauna has been a very useful place for Finnish people for generations. Of course it serves cleanliness, but also other purposes. Many people over 50 years of age were born in saunas and sauna is also used to make food (smoked ham, for example).

Not all Finnish people like sauna. Most do, but there are lots of people who don't have a sauna to use. It's part of a certain Finnish stereotype, combined with heavy drinking and other more negative attributes. But there's more to Finnish culture than just sauna and booze.

Game conventions are often held in places that have saunas. Sauna is usually warmed up in the evening, though in some occasions it's kept warm throughout the whole weekend. Sauna is usually accompanied by beer (after all, you have to drink a lot to replace the water you sweat away). Sauna has a very relaxed atmosphere and it's a great place to talk about even more private matters. With men, typical topics are women and army experiences (mandatory military service creates lots of common ground for most men).

So, if you're ever coming to Finland and are guests of someone Finnish, you can prepare for sauna. If your hosts are polite, you won't be forced into it, but I warn you, they'll be disappointed if you skip the sauna... If you're lucky, you'll get to go to a smoke sauna, which is like regular sauna except it doesn't have a chimney, so all the smoke from the wood-heated kiuas remains inside – but what a smooth löyly such a kiuas will give. It's a really superb experience.

Q14. What about your own involvement in games industry? Have you had any participation there? And is there anything I've left out that you would like to say? And finally, what are the words for game and board game in your language?
My board game website is one of the two major Finnish game websites and while the other guy has more reviews posted, I think my site is a bit more extensive. The website has been the source of many contacts: I've been on TV once, done radio twice and been interviewed for magazines three times. I've also had lots of contacts from individuals concerning games, so perhaps I'm a kind of spokesperson in a way.

I have also translated the Settlers of Catan and done some other translations for game stores to hand out with the games they sell. As I said before, I'm currently providing games-related content (descriptions and a weekly column) for Lautapelit.fi -- a position somewhat similar to what Rick Thornquist is doing for Gamefest.
Silmarillion book cover

However, that's all, at least for now. I kind of wouldn't want to be more involved in the retail part, at least, because I'd like to keep my website (it's still my pet project) independent and unbiased.

I think this interview covers most of everything necessary and if there's something about Finnish board game scene anybody wants to know, just drop me an e-mail.

Game is "peli" (to play is "pelata") and board game is "lautapeli", where "lauta" shares many of the more concrete meanings of "board". "Peli" sounds like a Germanic loan word, it isn't too far from German "Spiel" or Swedish "spel".

Thanks Mikko for sharing a bit of your culture and helping us to better understand gaming in Finland!
Thanks, it's been a great fun to do this interview!

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