"Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy."
Socrates (the great Brazilian philosopher of football)
What I Like and Dislike in Games
Theme isn’t that important to me. Theme can attract me to a game, but won’t make me buy it. I appreciate the austere simplicity of abstracts and can enjoy a game that's lightly themed. What does tend to chafe is a mismatch between theme and mechanics.
I do like player interaction, whether that is capturing, trumping, trading, negotiating, cooperating, bluffing, outbidding, invading or take-thating. The corollary is that I’m not so keen on low interaction games; games in which the contest is to exploit the system most efficiently. There are a few exceptions, but they tend to be fast-playing, like Race for the Galaxy.
I like to be presented with difficult decisions. That doesn't equate to complexity, but there aren’t many games you’d call light and fluffy on my shelves.
Card games are in my genes. My parents were fond of Rummy and Hearts. We spent many evenings playing them. I never tire of variations on trick-taking.
I gain no enjoyment from reading rules. The reason why I gave up playing wargames in the mid-eighties was that the gaming payoff for struggling through long, legalistic rules booklets no longer felt sufficient. When I recently returned to wargaming, I set a fairly arbitrary limit of 15 pages of rules in any wargame I bought. That limit has served me well and has been broken only rarely.
I play wargames for the game, not as a means of studying history. Things like strategic options and balanced victory conditions matter to me.
I welcome some randomness for creating tension and variation, and for kicking the perfect planners in the shins. I don’t mind dice, unless you’re asking me to play a Yahtzee variant with them.
Things I Do
I'm a regular at SoRCon, Manorcon and Eastbourne in the UK and have been to Essen almost every year since 1989. I'm an occasional playtester and even less of a designer. My first prototype is finished and available for publication. Two other projects are having a long gestation.
My Geekbuddies are ruthlessly exploited for their game ratings and thoughtful comments. They are mercilessly culled whenever they stumble and fall behind in rating new games. It's really a kindness that I haven't added you to them.
I've switched to an alternative game rating system devised by Daniel Karp and friends. A 10 point system is still about five too many, but I find it easier to rate using this one than the official version.
10: Outstanding game. One of my all-time personal favorites.
9: Excellent game. Always a pleasure to play. Shines under most circumstances.
8: Very good game. Rarely disappoints me. High on my request/recommend list.
7: Good game. Usually willing to play. I might even request or recommend it.
6: OK game. Some fun or challenge at least. Enjoyable in the right circumstances.
5: Average game. I'm indifferent, but may be willing to play.
4: Below average game. I avoid playing and would need to be persuaded.
3: Poor game. Will strongly resist playing.
2: Very poor game. I refuse to play this.
1: Dead game. Seriously negative entertainment value. Black Hole of Fun.