Monday, July 02, 2007

Conversations of No Interest

I've recently met a new gamer that reminds me a lot of myself when I first started gaming. We started talking about about games, and we agreed to share the conversation as a post here on my blog.

Let's start with a topic before we get to games. This will help me to understand your reasoning behind the games you like and the comments you make on future posts and likewise for you with me.

This has been a hot topic in my family and will mostly likely introduce me to games as you mention titles in defense of your posts - while there are many genres of games, if we boiled gaming down to very simple terms the gamer must figure out which end of the "luck" spectrum of he enjoys most. On one side, there are games that are all strategy and on the other end you have games that are driven by the luck of the die or the drawing of a card. the gray matter in between is where most gamers find themselves, though typically erring towards one side. Where do you find yourself? Closer to strategy or closer to luck? Does it change depending on who you are playing with or how many people are playing? Luck or strategy?

I'm going to rephrase before I answer - "How much randomness are you willing to accept in a game?". The answer is - it depends. Nobody wants to simply play a game of chance - if so, game conventions would be a boring mess of people sitting around flipping coins and cutting cards and cheering. On the other hand, take for instance - card games like Hearts, Spades, Oh Hell!, Tichu, Frank's Zoo, etc. - All of these games have a lot of randomness. However, the randomness is mitigated by good play. Not 100% of the time, but far more often than not. That's part of the equation. Can my skill overcome my opponent and the randomness?

The other part, is how much do I invest in the game? If, for instance, I play a game for more than 30 minutes and in the end, it comes down to who drew the last special card, then why bother playing? Let's draw cards until someone gets a special card and go play something fun. My one experience with Killer Bunnies was like that - it didn't really matter what you did, because in the end it was a lottery. I'll happily play something like Parcheesi or Backgammon, where the game's outcome in a lot of ways depends on the dice, but also depends on the skill of the player AND when the investment in the game is not so great that you care when luck goes against you. So the answer is - it depends. It depends on the game and whom I'm playing against. When I play with my wife, I can take a bit more randomness, because I play against the system as much as her - this gives me some satisfaction when I win and I don't feel too bad when I lose. (wow, that sounded condescending. I meant that more along the lines of she will be the first to admit she just likes to play and not spend her time "strategizing". She can usually jump on a tactical opening, but she'll admit when she wins its not usually because she out gamed me.)

What about you? What is your gaming preference?

In my family, there are three of us that love boardgames:

Darin (BGG - gamehaus), my brother-in-law. He introduced me and my wife to games. He loves strategy games, his favorite game is Go. 100% strategy - no dice or drawing cards. If you lose, it's because you didn't play as well as your opponent. He once said that he applied the strategies of Go to the way he makes decisions at work - there's always a constant forward thinking on what your opponent will do if you go here or there. He also introduced me to Puerto Rico - my first taste of euro games, and while there was still an element of luck (drawing the goods), it was very much strategy driven.

Jason (BGG - the gamebler), my oldest of three brothers, started out as a gamer that was in it to find games that would make everyone in the room either yelp in victory or hide their face in their hands as they just saw the dice roll a "one" to end the game - and he also enjoyed the shorter games. However, recently he's been playing games that involve more strategy and take a bit longer and I think he's changed his opinion.

I always thought I was a lot like Darin - but after playing games like Arkham Horror and Battle Cry, I realized I could have just as much fun with a game that involved more dice or cards. I'm typically a bit more of an analysis paralysis gamer, so it can take me a bit longer to make moves, but when you involve a little luck, I don't feel as much pressure and it seems to keep things moving along.

If I had to choose a side, I guess I would be more apt to enjoy the game that had as little randomness as possible. However, if the amount of luck in a game can be controlled by your strategy, I'm all for it. I am slowly losing some of my obsession with strategy. I haven't played many games I don't like, probably because I typically avoid most games that look like they'll be mostly luck-driven. I think I have a decent grasp on my interests at this point. Now that I'll start gaming with a group of people with varying interests, I'll be more willing to play games I usually wouldn't!!

My collection sort of reflects my tastes, which is to say - varied. I have some lighter games that have a bit of randomness and some longer games that are pure strategy. I also have a couple longer ones with some randomness (Manifest Destiny and History of the World come to mind) and some shorter pure strategy games. When I first started playing and collecting, I'd grab anything that sounded fun, but I stopped that when I'd find out a game wouldn't get played by my group. At that point, I just started trying to round out my collection more and finding games that I liked, even if nobody else did. I think I've found a happy medium - I have games that real gamers will enjoy, as well as those that someone that would never think twice about playing something that wasn't as simple as Yahtzee. I'm also willing to guess that most people getting into this hobby are strongly influenced by the people they play with and their preferences as well. Luckily, the group I played with had wildly varying tastes and game collections. A number of them had been playing for years and I got to sample a bit of everything. I really grew to appreciate a number of different games from different genres.

About the only games I never played (and I just don't really care to) are true wargames - loads of chits with obscure symbols just don't excite me very much. I've had some curiosity about a few block games (Wizard Kings and Rommel in the Desert), but I'm not sure that they aren't just wargames with wooden chits ;). I like pure strategy games, as there is a lot of personal satisfaction in beating other skilled players. However, there doesn't seem to be too many games like that that are also short. Plus, as fun as they are, they can also be taxing. Sometimes its nice to play a lighter game that gives you a chance to be a bit more social. If I just wanted to play games to be playing, I could play online all the time and never really need to sit at the table with someone.

You're right - you are influenced by those you game with. I think that's why I've found myself somewhere in between my brother and brother-in-law, Jason and Darin - enjoying mostly longer, strategic games - but quickly finding out that I need some of those shorter, lighter games to break up the slow, taxing sessions.

When I first started playing games with the AZ Boardgamers, it took me close to 5 months before I played the same game twice. In that time frame, there was only one night where I played only one or two games. I spent one night playing Conquest of the Empire, and while I loved it, I was really upset that I only got that one game in that night. I spent the next month playing loads of games, trying to get as many in during a playing session as I could and avoiding anything heavy or long. After a while, the fluff got to me and I started to get a little more balance in. I'm going to guess you'll end up in the same area - it'll depend on what you've played recently and who you've played with.

1 comment:

Red October said...

nice - i like this. hopefully we can start stirring things up a bit and get some fellow-gamers to comment a bit.