I really like games with an 'immersion factor' - both in and beyond the game itself: ones that suck you into their temporary 'reality' and, especially, ones where reading background material adds depth to the imaginative experience of the game. In the mid-70s, one such game was Kingmaker. Other immersive games include my favourite solitaire game, AH's B-17: Queen of the Skies.
I have been a wargamer, role-playing gamer, DM, etc. and long ago reached the conclusion that the complexity of rules does NOT correlate well at all with so-called 'realism' - or fun. Games aren't real, and simple mechanics can often represent real-world outcomes about as accurately, in the macro, as detailed charts and multiple micro-calculations: simple (not necessarily simplistic) rules, well thought-out and researched, are often much more appealing to me than pages and pages and pages (and MORE pages) of small print which just add paperwork, fatigue, headaches and boredom. How to kill a game stone dead - and how to put anyone off ever joining in. Ever.
I want to be in the game, not in the rulebook: for me, early D&D captured this well. I have very fond memories of discovering this exciting game back in the 70s. Often, I used to just make it up as DM - just about as consistently as possible, given the limitations of memory, and always in the player's favour where possible. But don't tell anyone. And I do miss
those long-gone days.....
I think I remember an early Donald Featherstone chapter, in one of his many books on wargaming, which had 1d6 tables for unit actions and combat resolution. We had the MOST fluid, fast and essentially no less realistic-feeling wargame one night using just these rules: the OVERALL events seemed 'realistic', without worrying about minute aspects of equipment variation etc. I think we refought Marston Moor.
I don't play computer games very much, but I remember 'Elite' back in the day, first on a BBC then on several other systems. There were no complicated controls or graphics; written in 48K; totally immersive, a week-end stealer. And - yes - I am indeed 'Elite' several times over - the hard way. That one's for those who've learnt the meaning of 'The Dark Wheel'. The bags under your eyes! Those hyperdrive failures in Witchspace infested with Thargoids! And the special missions!
The original 'Silent Hunter'(US subs in the Pacific) was another such game; it was interesting to play the game and read the literature about submarine operations in the Pacific in parallel. I'll never forget the sequence showing the sub coming back home at the end of the war! My most exciting gaming moment came when a Japanese sub had just dived; I had to estimate its heading, depth and speed - quickly - and fire a spread. I got it! Bang!
Games which I have attempted to design (usually with non-gamegeeks in mind, to be fair)and that have reached 'playable by others' form (notably the card and card/dice games 'Captain Jack' -http://www.pagat.com/invented/captain_jack.html
- 'Curse of the Vampire' and 'Dambusters - the card and dice game') - have tried to have this immersion-factor, with broad thematic brushstrokes and simple play rather than minutiae. Historical faithfulness is still important, though, as far as that is ever possible within the compass of a game.
In fact, most of the games I have most enjoyed playing could have - maybe should have - theme-tunes! B-17: Queen of the Skies is enhanced (for me) by Glen Miller (and 'Lucky Strike' American cigarettes during breaks - but I've given those up). If money was no object, I'd DRESS for gaming (and have done, with Poker - and it's Draw in a saloon, not Hold 'Em in a Casino, for me). It's part of that immersion. Am I alone? I very much doubt it. In fact, I know I'm not.
I also like games which are NOT just dumb luck: chess, for example. A beautiful, perfect human artifact. If Earth were to be destroyed tomorrow and only one thing could be left behind floating in space to mark what we once were, it would be a chess set (and rules), I think: we were game-players, we were artisans,we had a developed aesthetic beyond mere functional efficiency, we were war-like, we were competitive, we were social, we were clever.....You get the idea. Games MATTER, as cultural manifestations beyond the mere trivial and beyond their superficial significance. They define our species - Homo Ludens - as much as fire and language, perhaps.
Oh, and apropos nothing at all, really, I do think many 'Euro games' are mechanically innovative, clever and strategically challenging, but (so far) I've yet to find more than a handful (if that) that are really all that gripping thematically. They seem a bit 'damp' and Sunday School, a bit 'tame' and rather worthy, with bits that look like something from a church creche's Noah's Ark ('You can play with them if you're good'). Who wants to know who can grow the most fictional cabbages or build the best fictional sewer or whatever when there's a chance of spending the same time shooting down fictional Messerschmitt 109s or raising a fictional army to take the throne of England?.....
Maybe it's my age. 'When I was a boy.....' it was all Airfix kits and The War! And no: I did NOT grow up to be a war-monger at all, any more than being armed to the teeth with plastic guns made me want to use the real things on people when I grew up. The fate of too many of the soldiers lined up in my plastic armies gave me much more sense than that. Sobering.
I'm not too into 'collectable' games, either - the ones where you can NEVER have the complete game and you end up with loads of unusable components. Nah! Rip-off! A marketing ploy. Bits of plastic aren't 'rare'. It's an artificial - and I think cynical - way of exploitation. I'm not a 'completist'. I'm not falling for that one. I'll use D&D minis if I can get them cheaply but I'm just as likely to use toy-box rejects in a game. Even cheaper. Often better, too.
I don't mind EXPANSIONS to a game one little bit - in fact, I like them - but you should be able to hand over your cash and eventually get the game, the whole game and everything in the game, within a single human lifetime and without taking out a mortgage. Still, some people do enjoy the thrill of the chase, it seems, leading to cases of acquisitorial hyper-ventilation and pieces of cheap coloured plastic - or (worse yet) paper! - being considered 'rare' and becoming hyper-inflated in so-called 'value' on eBay and the like - and usually NOT being actually played with! Or played with in plastic sleeves in the case of cards.....my precioussss! It's a con. Each to their own, though: live and let live...I suppose. Oh, go on, then: of course!
Oh - and I don't like Meeples as game pieces at all! They're a bit.....well, cissy, frankly. And cheap-looking - crude. I know the historical origins of those 'nice' German 'Euro' games, but really...Meeples? Is that the best they could do? Only MHO, of course. Happy gaming, whatever the style!
Agree or disagree, as in life, our similarities are deep, our differences shallow and given far too much importance.