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Subject: How far can we push the "Abstract label" onto a game? rss

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Patrick Carroll wrote:
And some would argue that chess and go are abstract wargames. I think that argument depends on assuming that battle or war are themes of those games, then looking for ways in which the games map to real warfare.


I was thinking about those claims. It is correct to say that Chess is slightly themed as a war? I don't think so. Maybe we should diferenciate about theme and concept.

Dieter Stein said that he created his game Volo inspired by the beauty of birds flying in flocks. Once you see the mechanics of the game and goal, you see it's pretty obvious. But the game is still an elegant abstract despite of it.

Nestór created his game Feed the ducks based on the concept/idea of ducks competing for breadcrumbs thrown by old men. The mechanics and goal meets the concept/backstory. The only problem is that he pushes the story towards the player (i.e. creates a theme), whilst Dieter just mentions it and lets it go.

If the creator of chess and several generations after stuck saying chess is a wargame, chess is a wargame we would say chess is the original war-themed game. whistle
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Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations includes a section on War Games, yet all the games listed anywhere in that book are what most of us would call abstracts.

Somewhere I read that at the root of any game is the concept of racing or fighting--or both. If that's so, it might be that racing and fighting are thematic (in that they map to real-world activities) but so essential to what games are that we overlook them when we search for a game's theme. Maybe there has to be something much more explicit and detailed before we'll say a game has a theme and is not abstract. (Thus Snow Tails is thematic, but Pachisi is abstract. Both are race games, but only ST is about a certain kind of race.)



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Patrick Carroll wrote:

When you get to wargames, you're in a whole different ball park. "Theme" does not exist in those games to help the rules make sense; it's there because the whole purpose of the game is to simulate that real-world subject. Usually the word "theme" is not even used for wargames; we speak instead of what the game is about, or what its subject is. (Stepping back, the general theme would always be war. But that's a trivial point.)

Is "abstract wargame" an oxymoron, then? Maybe (except insofar as all games are abstract). But Nieuchess looks like an attempt to create an abstract wargame. And some would argue that chess and go are abstract wargames. I think that argument depends on assuming that battle or war are themes of those games, then looking for ways in which the games map to real warfare.



Hmm, sounds to me like a difference is perspective rather than an actual difference in idea (does that make sense?). I guess a lot of it depends on from what angle the game is produced: if you have a theme in mind, and build a game off that (I feel this would be interchangeable with 'simulation'), or if you have the game mechanics figured out and then figure out a useful theme to develop them with. For instance, it could be said that Agricola is a farming simulation, and thus should be called a 'farmgame' with farming as the subject; I think we'd all agree it's still themed thought. (I should qualify with I haven't played a wargame since I was a kid, so I don't really know if there's other fundamental differences that I am oblivious to)

In the broadest sense, though, yes, I agree, all games are abstracts, as they abstractly attempt to represent a particular a concept. In a more refined sense, I don't think 'abstract wargame' is oxymoronic, as war is such a broad 'theme' as to not even be useful to consider it as such; eg things such as business, biological natural selection, sports, etc could all be seen as variants on the concept 'war'.
 
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PSchulman wrote:
Maybe we should diferenciate about theme and concept.


Sorry, missed this post.

I think this is a valid and useful distinction to make (ie the difference between theme and concept).

To add to my above post, I would consider 'war' a concept in wargames. The 'subject', as you put it Patrick, would be a theme, in my opinion.
 
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mccann51 wrote:
drunkenKOALA wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
russ wrote:
With abstract games, there is terminological disagreement about whether (e.g.) Ingenious and Backgammon and Poker and Scrabble even ARE "abstract games" (regardless of whether one likes them or not).

Then we need an abstract-games dictator to tell us exactly which games are abstract and which ones are not. Or we need to form a committee to decide. Or maybe we need to take the democratic approach: all the games that BGGeeks have voted into the Abstract Games subdomain are abstract games, period--end of discussion.

(Or we could just let things be, I guess. But where's the fun in that?)
Period, end of discussion: the democratic approach.


Well, if we're going the democratic approach, it's not end of discussion because I disagree. How about a clear and concise definition for abstract, 'democratically' decided? To have everybody voting on what they consider to be something based on subjective ideas of what defines that something is kind of a waste of time, because then you have lots of discussions like this, but for every single game.
In democracy, discussions don't end. That's how a minority could ever become a majority.

Gay marriage again. Haven't we already decided that it's illegal?
 
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There is a definition for "Abstract Strategy Game," namely a two-player, perfect information, combinatorial game. Typically, these games are theme-less (Hex) or near theme-less (Chess).

On the other hand, "Abstract Game," I've found, can mean many things to many different people. In general, I like to think of a continuum. On one end we have completely theme-less games, where any notion of theme, if any, is provided solely by the players. On the other end, we have something like, I don't know, Arkham Horror, where the theme is so explicit and heavy as to permeate every aspect of play. Whether a game falls closer to one end of the continuum or the other defines if a game is abstract or not. However, different people are going to draw the cut-off lines in different places. So to some Tigris and Euphrates is abstract, even though it is clearly much, much less abstract than Checkers.

What's odd to think about, but important to realize, is that to most people "abstract game" is not the opposite of "themed game."
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Abstract Games » Forums » General
Re: How far can we push the "Abstract label" onto a game?
tckoppang wrote:
There is a definition for "Abstract Strategy Game," namely a two-player, perfect information, combinatorial game. Typically, these games are theme-less (Hex) or near theme-less (Chess).


So does that make Stephensons Rocket, or Through The Desert, an "Abstract Strategy Game" when played with two players but not when played with more than two?

Same ruleset. You have just added a player.
 
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Just curious if folks think The Battle for Hill 218 is an abstract.
 
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craigtyle wrote:
Just curious if folks think The Battle for Hill 218 is an abstract.


Nope.
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Well in one way, all games are abstractions of activities in life. People moved pebbles around on the sand to simulate having a war or a fight, but, physically they were only moving pebbles around on the sand.

So far, nobody has mentioned a aspect that a lot of accepted "abstract games" have. That is the quality of "emergent properties". You have the bare definition of the game, and people who enjoy abstracts enjoy discovering the "emergent rules of that universe". Usually these "emergent rules of the universe" take time and experience to discover. They are not apparent from just looking at the bare rules.

Games like Puerto Rico have what I called "bolted together rules" which go a long way to define the sort of game play you can have. The artful developer of this style of game can plan a combination of "bolted together rules" that provide players with enjoyable and challenging game play.

A lot of people never get to the stage in Chess or checkers or other abstract games, where they really discover and appreciate the "emergent rules of the universe" Unsurprisingly, they find these games, dull, boring and impenetrable.

Games like Puerto Rico and many of the Euros give people the opportunity to experience game play at a higher level, because many of the "rules of the universe" are all ready explained in the rule book.

To get to the same level in abstract games, first you have to discover the "rules of the universe". They are usually not all that obvious, just from looking at the bare rules.

You hear some people who play Euros, say that they burn out on a particular game after intensely playing it for a while.
With an abstract game with emergent properties, the emergent properties continue to emerge. The better you get, the more there is to discover.

That's my two cents. Actually my two pebbles in the sand. And because I am an abstract game lover, I will role play that these two pebbles are two million dollars. That is the only way I will be a millionaire :-)
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Hmmm... you all gave me food for thought. I guess one has to think about his concepts and apply them to determine what he thinks it is a valid abstract strategy game, regardless of pre-determined conventions.

The way you accept a certain label is correlated to your idea of a certain genre and how willing you are to broaden it (your idea) to cover certain games which might be put in one or other category.

If you can't broaden your view, certain games would be considered by you simply copycats, trying to sneak in where they don't belong.

Simply put, it is too personal and subjective to decide if a game is an abstract game or belongs to another genre. It is about how you face the experience of playing...
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IMO, the presence or absence of theme is actually irrelevant. Chess and Hive have themes, but they are clearly abstracts. If you take an obvious, "themeless" abstract, and give it a theme (even one that matches very well to the mechanics), it doesn't stop being an abstract game.

It's important to make the distinction between "theme" and "simulation". Abstract games often have themes, but really don't have simulation. Chess does not at all simulate actual ancient warfare. There has never been a particular type of military unit or soldier that could only move diagonally, or was incapable of moving backwards or attacking the enemy soldier directly in front of it. Likewise, Hive does not in any way simulate the behavior of insects.

IMO, it is not useful for the category to exclude all elements of luck, hidden information, or more than two players. If you want to talk specifically about combinatorial games, then use a different name, like "combinatorial games".

It seems silly to me to say that Chess is an Abstract Game, but Kriegspiel is not. Or that any of the several more-than-two-player versions of Chess are not. Or that Chaturanga is not.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
It's important to make the distinction between "theme" and "simulation".

Indeed, but with the explicit caveat that this seems more of a fuzzy spectrum than a clear-cut distinction as you (perhaps unintentionally) seem to suggest.

E.g. consider any classic hard-core complicated detailed realistic wargame of the most simulationist type. There too you can say things like "there has never been a particular type of military unit or soldier that could only move on a hex grid" or "there was never a military commander who was able to directly order all the hundreds or thousands of units on his side" etc. Every game, no matter how much it's intended to simulate, necessarily has abstractions. (The map is not the territory, and all that...)
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
It seems silly to me to say that Chess is an Abstract Game, but Kriegspiel is not.

It doesn't to me. (Edit: But that's because I confused Kriegspiel with Kriegspiel. Still, I'll let this post stand, FWIW.) Kriegspiel has lots of clear, intentional, explicit mapping to real-world things: e.g., infantry, armor, and special forces units; terrain features like mountains and woods and rivers; cards that illustrate specific kinds of military attack and defense; etc.

In contrast, chess has so little that maps to the real world that we have to stretch our imagination to see what chess might represent. There's a long tradition that says chess represents a battle, and we've all heard it so many times that we can't help but imagine it to some degree. Yet, it's not really clear at all. If pawns are infantrymen or peasant-soldiers, the game suggests they can instantly morph into superheroes just by advancing across to the other side of the battlefield. If the king is a headquarters, in real war it'd be great to destroy or capture an enemy headquarters; but in the game, that's forbidden--the HQ moves around, and you have to trap it.

If someone learned chess without ever having heard that it's supposed to be a stylized representation of battle, I wonder if he'd make that association on his own. He might imagine the game to be about something else entirely--or about nothing at all in particular.

Is Checkers also a battle-themed game? Some say it is. But to me, that requires even more of a stretch of imagination. Is Go a game about war? Some say it is, but that's another case where you just have to choose to believe it and then imagine it; and many go players probably don't imagine war.

Now, Risk and Stratego and Battleships are clearly war-themed games. Not simulations, of course, but not abstract either. They have enough explicit war-related art and text that a player can't help but see the game is supposed to be about war.

I'm not sure what Hive is. It's obviously not a simulation, and it obviously is an abstract game; but the insect theme serves as a mnemonic device--it helps players remember the various kinds of moves. Most players probably think of real-life insects sometimes too, even though they know the game doesn't really have anything to do with insect behavior.

To me, an abstract game is one where there is no explicit mapping to anything outside the game. There may be tacit mapping, where one can imagine that the game is about such-and-such or seems to represent this or loosely depict that; but there's nothing explicit.

A themed game is one where there is at least some superficial mapping to something outside the game--i.e., where players are shown or told that the game is supposed to be about such-and-such. An example would be a Nine Men's Morris game with a World War I map and illustrations in the background, and a game title that suggests the game is about WWI tactics. Or a Civil War chess set. Or a Star Wars checkers game.

A simulation game is one where the mapping to something outside the game is more than skin deep. The game serves as a model of some real-life activity, and players can see how some of the game mechanics correspond to the real-life activity being portrayed. For example, armor units move faster than infantry units in the game because tanks can move faster than foot soldiers in real life.
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Patrick Carroll wrote:


It doesn't to me. Kriegspiel has lots of clear, intentional, explicit mapping to real-world things: e.g., infantry, armor, and special forces units; terrain features like mountains and woods and rivers; cards that illustrate specific kinds of military attack and defense; etc.


I think he's talking about the chess variant, Kriegspiel. whistle
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PSchulman wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:


It doesn't to me. Kriegspiel has lots of clear, intentional, explicit mapping to real-world things: e.g., infantry, armor, and special forces units; terrain features like mountains and woods and rivers; cards that illustrate specific kinds of military attack and defense; etc.


I think he's talking about the chess variant, Kriegspiel. whistle


Oops! You're right. I should've clicked on the link. Kriegspiel was the first wargame I ever bought. My second thought was Kriegsspiel, another wargame. I had forgotten about that umpired chess variant.
blush
 
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davidmilne wrote:

So far, nobody has mentioned a aspect that a lot of accepted "abstract games" have. That is the quality of "emergent properties". You have the bare definition of the game, and people who enjoy abstracts enjoy discovering the "emergent rules of that universe". Usually these "emergent rules of the universe" take time and experience to discover. They are not apparent from just looking at the bare rules.

Games like Puerto Rico have what I called "bolted together rules" which go a long way to define the sort of game play you can have. The artful developer of this style of game can plan a combination of "bolted together rules" that provide players with enjoyable and challenging game play.

A lot of people never get to the stage in Chess or checkers or other abstract games, where they really discover and appreciate the "emergent rules of the universe" Unsurprisingly, they find these games, dull, boring and impenetrable.

Games like Puerto Rico and many of the Euros give people the opportunity to experience game play at a higher level, because many of the "rules of the universe" are all ready explained in the rule book.

To get to the same level in abstract games, first you have to discover the "rules of the universe". They are usually not all that obvious, just from looking at the bare rules.

You hear some people who play Euros, say that they burn out on a particular game after intensely playing it for a while.
With an abstract game with emergent properties, the emergent properties continue to emerge. The better you get, the more there is to discover.


This is a very interesting idea. I'm going to have to keep it in mind next time I play a Euro to decide if I agree (well, it might take more than a few plays to decide).


Phil Fleischmann wrote:
IMO, the presence or absence of theme is actually irrelevant. Chess and Hive have themes, but they are clearly abstracts. If you take an obvious, "themeless" abstract, and give it a theme (even one that matches very well to the mechanics), it doesn't stop being an abstract game.

It's important to make the distinction between "theme" and "simulation". Abstract games often have themes, but really don't have simulation. Chess does not at all simulate actual ancient warfare. There has never been a particular type of military unit or soldier that could only move diagonally, or was incapable of moving backwards or attacking the enemy soldier directly in front of it. Likewise, Hive does not in any way simulate the behavior of insects.

IMO, it is not useful for the category to exclude all elements of luck, hidden information, or more than two players. If you want to talk specifically about combinatorial games, then use a different name, like "combinatorial games".

It seems silly to me to say that Chess is an Abstract Game, but Kriegspiel is not. Or that any of the several more-than-two-player versions of Chess are not. Or that Chaturanga is not.


Can you describe how you 'define' an abstract? I feel like you've only really knocked down the two major definitions that people are working with; ie abstracts are themeless, or abstracts are combinatorial perfect-info games. Or could you try and delineate the difference between theme and simulation a bit better (I'm with Russ in thinking that really all games are essentially abstractions, so I'm not sold on how useful the distinction you made is). I'm not intending to be snippy or rhetorical, btw, if it sounds like that.
 
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mccann51 wrote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
IMO, the presence or absence of theme is actually irrelevant. Chess and Hive have themes, but they are clearly abstracts. If you take an obvious, "themeless" abstract, and give it a theme (even one that matches very well to the mechanics), it doesn't stop being an abstract game.

It's important to make the distinction between "theme" and "simulation". Abstract games often have themes, but really don't have simulation. Chess does not at all simulate actual ancient warfare. There has never been a particular type of military unit or soldier that could only move diagonally, or was incapable of moving backwards or attacking the enemy soldier directly in front of it. Likewise, Hive does not in any way simulate the behavior of insects.

IMO, it is not useful for the category to exclude all elements of luck, hidden information, or more than two players. If you want to talk specifically about combinatorial games, then use a different name, like "combinatorial games".

It seems silly to me to say that Chess is an Abstract Game, but Kriegspiel is not. Or that any of the several more-than-two-player versions of Chess are not. Or that Chaturanga is not.


Can you describe how you 'define' an abstract? I feel like you've only really knocked down the two major definitions that people are working with; ie abstracts are themeless, or abstracts are combinatorial perfect-info games. Or could you try and delineate the difference between theme and simulation a bit better (I'm with Russ in thinking that really all games are essentially abstractions, so I'm not sold on how useful the distinction you made is). I'm not intending to be snippy or rhetorical, btw, if it sounds like that.

Certainly.

First, there is one aspect of abstract games that has not yet been mentioned at all: Geometry. When people say "Abstract Game" they almost always think of a game played on some type of geometric grid. Squares (chess), hexagons (Hex), triangles (Klin Zha), or something with less regularity (Nine-men-morris). 2D (checkers) or 3D (any number of 3D chess variants). Sometimes the grid is on a board (Go) and sometimes the grid is only implied, being made up by the pieces themselves (Trax). Sometimes the grid is "plain" - all the spaces are the same (Blokus), and sometimes the grid has "terrain" - some spaces have different properties than others (Xiangqi, Terrace). Sometimes the grid has a "gravity bias" - some spaces are "filled in" before the ones above them can be (Connect 4, Rumis).

Second, abstract games are "self-contained" - they don't rely on anything outside the game components and rules themselves. This excludes trivia games, word games, dexterity games, and party games - all of which rely on knowledge or skills or personalities that the player's themselves must bring to the game.

Third, abstract games are not offered as simulations. Yes, all games have to be abstracted to some extent. And yes, any simulation will lack accuracy in some area.

Fourth, abstract games have a certain simplicity about them. This is a highly subjective criteria of course. But I think most people have some threshold of complexity above which a game just no longer *feels* abstract - even if it's a complete-information, no-luck, two-player, combinatorial game that has a grid and doesn't simulate anything.

As I said before, it just isn't a useful category if it includes one game but excludes a game that's almost exactly the same, but with some minor variation. In some cases, it's not just not useful - it's silly, IMO. For example, it's silly to me to say that Blokus is an abstract game when played with two players, but when played with three players, it's not. And the same with the examples I gave in my earlier post.

Yes, the category of combinatorial games is useful when you're specifically talking about game theory. But I'm interested in more than just game theory - I'm interested in actually playing games, and having fun. I happen to really like many combinatorial games, like Chess, Terrace (2-p), Blokus (2-p), Blokus Trigon (2-p), Rumis (2-p), Hive, Arimaa, Quorridor (2-p), Twixt, Terra Nova (2-p), etc. And that translates into my also really liking many games that are not combinatorial, but are similar: such as many of the ones I just listed, but with more than 2 players, along with ones like Torres, Pueblo, Tigris & Euphrates, Mississippi Queen, Fjords, Ricochet Robot, etc. Notice a pattern?

There are also combinatorial games that I do not enjoy (an I suspect most people also don't): Tic-Tac-Toe, Nim, etc. Those games may have some use when studying game theory, but they aren't fun to *play*.

The category of combinatorial games is strictly defined - every game clearly is or is not in that category. The category of abstract games does not have as clear a boundary - and that's OK. It's still a useful category.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:

As I said before, it just isn't a useful category if it includes one game but excludes a game that's almost exactly the same, but with some minor variation. In some cases, it's not just not useful - it's silly, IMO. For example, it's silly to me to say that Blokus is an abstract game when played with two players, but when played with three players, it's not. And the same with the examples I gave in my earlier post.


The name "abstract" might not be useful to describe the category, but the two player vs. three player distinction really does make a difference, and that difference is far from trivial. Furthermore, that difference is not merely theoretical, or of interest to mathematicians. It fundamentally alters game play.

In three player Blokus, a situation can arise where one player cannot possibly win the game, but he can, through his actions, decide which of the other two players wins the game. i.e. by playing a piece, he takes a away scoring opportunities from other players. He may get exactly the same number of points for each of two possible plays, but one of those two choices will force the red player to keep an unplayed piece in his hand, while the other choice will force the blue player to keep an unplayed piece in his hand.

That situation cannot arise in a two player game. In a two player game that is a "pure abstract", there is never a time that you can blame a loss on anything other than your opponent's better play in that game. In a three player variation of the same game, there will be a chance that a situation can arise where I might realistically say, "I would have beaten George if Fred had not made that move."

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All true. But completely irrelevant.

The same thing holds true for non-abstract games. Two players or more than two players makes the same difference. There's even a name for this phenomenon: kingmaker. And it applies to non-abstracts as well as abstracts.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
All true. But completely irrelevant.

The same thing holds true for non-abstract games. Two players or more than two players makes the same difference. There's even a name for this phenomenon: kingmaker. And it applies to non-abstracts as well as abstracts.


Irrelevant? Hardly.

You seem to have characterized two player Blokus and three player Blokus as "almost exactly the same." Here's the actual quote. "As I said before, it just isn't a useful category if it includes one game but excludes a game that's almost exactly the same, but with some minor variation. In some cases, it's not just not useful - it's silly, IMO. For example, it's silly to me to say that Blokus is an abstract game when played with two players, but when played with three players, it's not."

There is, in fact, a huge, very relevant, and very important distinction between two player Blokus and three player Blokus. The difference between the two games is not a "minor variation". In two player Blokus, there can be no "kingmaker". In three player Blokus, there can be. In two player Blokus, the geometric patterns on the board determine the winner, and the only thing that matters to determine the outcome is how well each player can look ahead and determine how best to ensure that those patterns are better for him than for the opponent. In three player Blokus, the game may well be decided by who best can summarize Proust, or at least using the same criterion once depicted in a rather famous fictional portrayal of a summarizing Proust contest.*

It might be said that it is silly to use the term "abstract" when characterizing one of those games but not the other, and indeed that's a fair comment. Nevertheless, among people who say that they like "abstract strategy" games, you will find an awful lot of people who look at two player Blokus as an excellent example of an abstract strategy game. However, those same players might characterize three player Blokus as an idle pastime that's ok because their significant others are willing to play it. They would probably give three player Blokus a bonus point or two because of its superficial similarity to one of their favorite games.

*(Note to youngsters: It's a Monty Python reference.)
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Russ Williams
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Meadmaker wrote:
Irrelevant? Hardly.

A perhaps even more striking example is Go. 2-player go is quite a deep excellent strategy game. Multiplayer go is a "pastime" as you say, in which your strength at go strategy has almost no relevance, and diplomacy/persuasion is far more relevant, because 2 newbies can easily collude to take out a strong player.
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Me, sin? Pf! Nah! Chill
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Meadmaker wrote:
Phil Fleischmann wrote:
All true. But completely irrelevant.

The same thing holds true for non-abstract games. Two players or more than two players makes the same difference. There's even a name for this phenomenon: kingmaker. And it applies to non-abstracts as well as abstracts.


Irrelevant? Hardly.

Yep. Still irrelevant. What you are describing is the difference between combinatorial games and non-combinatorial games. And sure, that's important if you want to talk about game theory. But if you want to talk about having fun playing games, it's irrelevant.

Your criteria are solely based on what influences the *win* of the game, rather than the *play* of the game. From a game-theory standpoint, that's important. But from the standpoint of trying to categorize game types - in terms of what people might want to play to have fun, it really isn't that important.

By your standard, there are only two categories of games:

Combinatorial - 2 players only, no luck, no hidden information, no physical skills involved, not time/speed dependent, etc.

Everything else - All games that aren't combinatorial: they might have a "kingmaker" in them, in the form of a third player, or in the form of some random luck factor, or in the form of some physical phenomenon, etc.

This is cleary not the intent of BGG. This is Board Game Geek, not Game Theory Geek.

Quote:
In three player Blokus, the game may well be decided by who best can summarize Proust, or at least using the same criterion once depicted in a rather famous fictional portrayal of a summarizing Proust contest.*

Nope. Your claim is not a mere exaggeration, it is absolutely false. The winner of a trivia game may well be decided by how well one can summarize Proust, but not Blokus.
 
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abstract to me just means absense of theme, and also pieces that arent tangibly represtational of concrete things. not so much the mechanics themselves. So a game like Hive wouldn't be an abstract as it actually has a theme - bugs and has pieces that represent bugs. Chess woudlnt be since it has things like Kings and knights. Checkers though would be since it just has discs. It's not a perfect definition as there is a lot of overlap between games that one might consider abstract versus non abstract.

So a game like Clans for example would not be an abstract, even though it's listed as an abstract strategy game. In fact it's also listed as Prehistoric as one of those themes. If you can label a game as Prehistoric, its not an abstract.

Defining a game as abstract based on its strategy to me is extremelyl problematic, since all games are abstractions of some kind even ones that are strongly themed.
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Yep. Still irrelevant. What you are describing is the difference between combinatorial games and non-combinatorial games. And sure, that's important if you want to talk about game theory. But if you want to talk about having fun playing games, it's irrelevant.


You are projecting you concept of "fun playing games" onto others.

Different people like different kinds of games, and for different reasons. Some people like games for the social nature, as a way to spend time with friends. Others like the fantasy element, pretending to be a king, general, railroad mogul, or mafia boss. Some people like to gamble. Some people like serious intellectual competition.

If you like the fantasy aspect of games, then most games called "abstract" are not for you. Even if they have a theme, there's not much pretending to be anything in particular. If you like the social aspect, you might enjoy 2, 3, or more players, depending on what sort of "social" you have in mind, and elements of luck probably wouldn't bother you. If you like gambling, some "theme" is ok, and some chance is not an absolute necessity, but it helps.

If, on the other hand,serious competition is your idea of fun, then 3 player games are not going to have much appeal. When I run a chess tournament, my players spend 5 hours in nearly complete silence, playing a game in which every move could be the difference between victory and defeat. (My tournaments are short. A lot involve twelve hours in one day, or 24 in the course of a weekend.) It's stressful. It's tiring. It's fun.

A lot of people wouldn't think it's fun, but we do. Call us crazy. If, on the other hand, we were to spend four hours on one game, concentrating like crazy, trying to find the move that will be able to be turned into that decisive advantage, only to have the other two players decide to gang up on you in such a way that you can't win, that would be not so much fun.

Different strokes for different folks. If competition is the reason for the game, combinatorial games really are different, and not just from a theoretical perspective. Game play is very different in combinatorial versus non-combinatorial games, even if the difference is some "minor variation" like the number of players.

For reasons not directly related to the contents of the dictionary, the term "abstract" is often used in describing luckless, i.e.combinatorial, games, and perhaps that's unfortunate, but the point is that, whatever you call them, the difference between two and three player games is extremely relevant,even if you goal is to have fun playing games. It just depends on your idea of fun.



Quote:

Quote:
In three player Blokus, the game may well be decided by who best can summarize Proust, or at least using the same criterion once depicted in a rather famous fictional portrayal of a summarizing Proust contest.*

Nope. Your claim is not a mere exaggeration, it is absolutely false. The winner of a trivia game may well be decided by how well one can summarize Proust, but not Blokus.


So, I'm guessing you haven't seen the Monty Python skit. I assure you that the same skills used to win the summarizing Proust competition can be used to win games of three player Blokus.
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