Last weekend I had an absolutely brilliant time staying at a friend's house with a group of nine old friends from London on Board and access to a whole bunch of our favourite games. Looking back on my 42 plays of 27 different games, I was particularly pleased to have only learned 2 new ones (one of which I brought).
But then I realised that I'd taught about 10 games to at least someone in the group, denying them that same opportunity to play games they already knew. I hope that this wasn't an unwanted imposition!
It occurred to me that we can break down our plays into four main groups, each of which have different pros and cons.
Everyone already knows the game
This seems surprisingly rare among hobby gamers. We're all so busy trying so many different games that there are few we coalesce around to the extent that everyone at the table knows the game. But it's an absolute joy when it happens, especially for the more complex games which are frankly a pain to teach. It also allows for an even competitive playing field.
Highlights of the weekend in this category were a brilliant, tight 4p game of Tigris & Euphrates and my first loss at Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, which is so much more fun to play than to teach.
No one already knows the game
There are two types of game for which I can tolerate this: simple games where the rules can be figured out from the book within 5 minutes, and complex ones where we treat the first play purely as a co-operative learning experience rather than a competitive game (my first play of Pax Porfiriana comes to mind). I hate learning a medium-complexity game from someone teaching from the rulebook, unless they've done plenty of prep beforehand, and I imagine I'm really unpleasant to teach that type of game as I always try to grab the rulebook myself!
The only game in this category at the weekend was Castello Methoni which was simple and which I taught. I hope I did a reasonable job.
I know the game, but some other players don't
I really enjoy being in the role of introducing a favourite to people I think will enjoy it. But I'd much prefer that to be a simple game that I can teach quickly and in which they can be competitive, rather than a complex one where I'll probably crush them.
There were several of the former category over the weekend - Cross Clues, American Bookshop and Overstocked were particularly big hits. In the latter category, the game of Mille Fiori I taught resulted in an embarrassingly lopsided victory for me, which I doubt was much fun for anyone, while the play of the same game where everyone knew it well was hard-fought and close.
I'm really obnoxious if I know the game but someone else is teaching it - I find it really hard to avoid jumping in. Sorry!
Someone knows the game, but I don't
I enjoy learning a game from someone who knows it well enough to teach it confidently and to handle any rules queries without having to keep going back to the rulebook. I still usually check the rule book afterwards and often find an error though! I'm also (probably annoyingly) picky about the games I'll agree to be taught.
The only game in this category was Rumble Nation which I'd been keen to try and really enjoyed. It's a simple game but I did find one important rule that had been forgotten (you can't play special power cards after anyone has run out of cubes).
My preferences vary a bit depending on the type of game. For complex/opaque games I'd much rather play with an experienced table and any teaching is just a chore to get to that stage. For simpler games I really enjoy teaching and also don't mind learning from someone who knows the game.
What's your preferred style? Do you consciously think about the style you're imposing on other players with the games you suggest?
QWERTYmartin's Unabridged Insights On Play
Archive for the hobby
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Now that face-to-face gaming has returned to something like normality (weekly games night with ~8 vaccinated friends) I can reflect on the good bits of online gaming which I'll continue out of pleasure rather than necessity.
I do almost no online gaming with random strangers and I need there to be an active chat channel in my games (video for real-time games, chat box or email thread for asynch). To enjoy gaming, I need the other players to have personalities and for us to be able to react to each other's moves.
I also find that I can't handle multiple sessions of the same game running in parallel asynch. It's too easy to confuse them and lose your chain of thought. I can manage about five parallel sessions of different games though.
I think of a game's rhythm as the pattern in time of when each player's input is needed. For example, you can have a fast, regular rhythm of one action per turn rotating round and round the table or you can have a slow, irregular rhythm of multi-action turns which can be interrupted by other players.
Face-to-face is able to support the whole spectrum of these and players who aren't 'up' can fill any lengthy waits with background chat. This is more difficult online; I find that it's harder to have both game-related 'narration' and random chat going on at the same time across a video/audio link. Because of this I've found that fast rhythm games work best for online real-time; the game requires regular input so players don't go multi-tasking in other windows and lose the feeling of shared attention.
On the other hand, online asynch is great for slow rhythm games. You can plan out your multi-part turn at your leisure and really study game information you might not have time to process in a face-to-face game. Ideal games for this format don't have any interrupts and have relatively few turns overall so that you can get through a game in a week or two even with only a turn a day.
Online automation can be a boon for games that have a lot of fiddly bureaucracy or a lengthy set-up/tear-down. I found 7 Wonders much more bearable as a 10-minute BGA hit for example.
On the other hand, I don't want automation to go so far that I feel like I'm playing a computer game. I enjoy board games because they're simple enough to understand why everything is happening and I also like the tactility. The best online formats in this respect have been Vassal (for asynch) and playingcards.io (for real-time). Neither of them enforce the rules so everyone has to pay attention rather than just letting the computer do the work. pc.io in particular gets me close (but not all the way) to feeling like I'm sitting around a real table with friends.
Speaking of which, I haven't used Tabletop Simulator or Tabletopia at all. I find trying to simulate a 3-D 'environment' on a 2-D screen doesn't work for me at all from a usability point of view, and the one time I did try TTS it killed my laptop anyway!
Logs and reconstructability
Asynch games need a good way for you to understand what has happened since you took your last turn. Some games do this naturally - you can tell pretty much everything you need to know from the current board state without knowing the history. I find this type works well on BGA as a game I can quickly take a move on my phone while I'm travelling, etc. Res Arcana is good for this - you generally know most of the actions you're going to take each turn regardless of what your opponent does, so you can quickly punch the next one in.
More involved games need a good log or replay feature. The game log in Pax Porfiriana on yucata is pretty good for example. But the one I like best is Vassal which forces you to step through your opponents' turns move by move with their accompanying commentary. I also usually play asynch games with trackable information that I would prefer to keep hidden in a f2f game revealed. This helps with keeping track of the game-state over several days and it doesn't matter if it slows down turns as no one is waiting in real-time.
Plannability and undo
Another really important feature for slow rhythm asynch games is a way of planning out your turn without committing to it. It's incredibly frustrating to get part-way through a multi-action turn and then realise you messed up at the beginning and can't go back. Done well this can even be a slight improvement over face-to-face where watching someone go back and forth between options and try to unpick their turn to start again can get frustrating.
Availability of games
I've actually enjoyed the relatively restricted choice of games available for online play compared to face-to-face. There's a sense of communal excitement when a new 'release' of an old favourite drops on BGA. Also the community that has grown up around building and playing mods for playingcards.io has been lovely to see - this has been the main way I've got to sample the many, many innovative trick-takers coming out of Japan.
I hope that publishers will continue to see releasing online versions as a good way of promoting and boosting sales of physical copies.
Friends old and new
Above all of this, the absolute best feature of online gaming has been getting to play regularly with people who I don't normally get to see (or have never even met in real life). While online games night felt like a poor (but necessary) substitute for the real thing, when there is no 'real thing', it's much more palatable. It's also allowed me to seek out opportunities to play specific games with the specific people I most want to play them with - f2f it's often a case of only being able to fix one of those two.
The best examples of this are my weekly (or more) trick-taking session on pc.io with BGG friends, through which I've discovered a new top ten game (Doppelkopf), the series of 'games of the month' being run in the OGs: Old-school German-style Games guild mostly on BGA, and the gang of Babylonia enthusiasts who've gathered to play some really high-level games on Vassal.
Thanks to everyone I've played with for helping me stay sane!
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Read this article first: http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2021/06/review-drift.ht...
(and thanks to this thread for the tip off)
My stages in reading it:
1. Huh, this article isn't about board games but loads of the stuff he says is super-relevant to our hobby.
2. Oh, now he *is* talking about board games! And he knows what he's talking about! I wonder who this guy is.
3. Name looks familiar - oh it'sThi Nguyen(rorschah)United States
Salt Lake City
My only disagreement with his argument is that I'm not sure the current "review context" for board games is "really far from the standard use-context". Seems to me that a lot of players treat games as things that look pretty and get played a handful of times too.
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I don't have anything like the platform in this hobby that some do, but I will say this.
If you say 'black lives matter', the only people attacking you will be racists. And I'd take that as a badge of honour.
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As we await the Spiel des Jahres nominations next Monday, chairman of the jury Tom Felber has a message for you (via Google Translate): Quote:It will soon be time again: On Monday, May 14, the jury "Game of the Year" will publish their list of recommendable games. For me as chairman, it is always very instructive to see in the time immediately afterwards which reactions to this come from the population. But some of the most intense reactions are each based on a misunderstanding, a target group misunderstanding. According to our statute, the "Game of the Year" is supposed to be a game that is as suitable as possible to further promote and spread the game culture in the family and society. The game must therefore not be too complex and the entry should not be too difficult, so that the game can achieve a broad impact in society. But how can one easily recognize whether one has possibly wrong expectations and as a player still belongs to this target group?Please bear this in mind before posting about your disgust/disappointment with the nominees!
Here are 10 unmistakable signs that you are no longer part of the Game of the Year audience:
You post every game you play on Boardgamegeek and enter it neatly where you played, the time, the score of all players, their names and trades, your player color, the amount of your blood pressure and the brand of chips -Package that you have consumed before lunch.
You instantly and always, while a game is in progress, take a picture of the game you're playing on Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook, and tag all the players, who of course are all on Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook ,
After the Spielmesse in Essen, you proudly present your "Loot" games in the social media, a stack with all your games brought along by the fair.
You are seriously of the opinion that some of the previous award winners of the "Kennerspiel des Jahres" are actually child games and have already told the jury chairman or other members of the jury directly and emphatically.
You are regularly overpriced to send cool nerd T-shirts from overseas.
You're more than willing to spend at least $ 120 on a Kickstarter game by an unknown author and publisher you do not even know if the game system works.
The main thing is that the characters look cool and the illustrations tear you away.
Discussions on your game evenings often revolve around topics like "If Batman, Mr. Spock, and Tim and Struppi would meet Darth Vader, Lara Croft, and Rick and Morty as a team in an arena, who would win the fight in which round and why?"
Discussed? At your game evenings nothing is discussed. The other players should concentrate on the game.
You prefer to play all alone anyway, and you do not like it that way when interacting with your fellow players at the table.
Anyway, you're of the opinion that "Chess / Go / Monopoly / Settlers of Catan / Magic the Gathering / Netrunner / Poker / Tichu / Jassen / Skat / Bridge / Dog / Uno / Sinking Ships / Soccer / Rope Skipping is the best game ever and it does not really need any other games next to it.
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This year, my picks for Spiel des Jahres were Love Letter, Abluxxen and Port Royal but none got nominated and only Love Letter even got a recommendation.
To the rescue comes Fairplay magazine's 'A la Carte' award for card game of the year, regularly the best fit to my tastes:
1. ABLUXXEN Ravensburger
2. LOVE LETTER Pegasus
3. UGO! Playthisone
4. PORT ROYAL Pegasus
5. KASHGAR Kosmos
6. SKULL KING Schmidt Spiele
7. PARADE Schmidt Spiele
8. SOS TITANIC Ludonaute
9. FUNGI Pegasus
10. KORYO Moonster Games/Asmodee
Of the rest, I've only played Parade, and I love that too. So what else should I try?
Ugo and Koryo I've come across a few times and I'm interested. I don't think Fungi sounds particularly exciting, but I could be convinced otherwise.
Kashgar I know nothing about, but it sounds like it'll need an English version to be playable for me. SOS Titanic is likely too solitaire for my tastes. And Skull King sounds like another (unnecessary?) version of Oh Hell/Rage/Wizard.
Anyone got thoughts on these, or can think of 2013/14 card games the Fairplay jury missed?
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It's time for the second instalment of my annual month of playing no new games. You can read more about it and join me at the geeklist.
What is NaNoNeGaMo?
It stands for National No New Games Month, and it's an annual celebration of the tried and tested.
What does it involve?
For the month of June, participants will endeavour to learn no new games, enjoy ones they have already played, and post about their experiences.
Why 'national'? BGG is international!
It echoes NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is also international, and I just like the sound of NaNoNeGaMo.
No particular reason, but there's no point having it in October or after, as I can't fight the Essen tide!
How do I participate?
Add an entry to the geeklist to say why you're joining in, and update it through June with your experiences. You can also buy and display the microbadge
What about Grimwold's New-to-Me geeklist?
If I get my way, it'll have a quiet month!
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- This thread makes me ashamed to be a BGGer. Come on people, we're better than that.
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A couple of interesting and near-simultaneous blog posts by geekbuddies yesterday got me thinking about something I’ve written a bit about before, but not really articulated fully.
In the hobby as I see it, there’s a continuum of gamer types of which the two ends could almost be considered completely different hobbies. I’m talking about what I’ll call breadth-gamers and depth-gamers.*
We all have a finite amount of time to devote to gaming, we all have to make decisions about how to split that up, and we all have to compromise to fit in with others. But if you had free rein over the next 100 games you play, what would they be?
If your answer is one play of each of 100 different games, most of them new to you, then you are an extreme breadth-gamer (also known as the Cult of the New). If it’s 100 plays of your favourite game with your favourite opponents, you’re the ultimate depth-gamer (also known as a lifestyle-gamer). An alternative metric would be the average number of times you play each game you own. Breadth-gamers are happy with 5 plays or fewer; depth-gamers expect to get at least 10 and hopefully much more.
I think that recognising the different motivations and preferences of these two extremes helps make sense of a lot of conversations that go on here on BGG and in the wider gaming world.
Breadth-gamers are from Mars, depth-gamers are from Venus
Breadth-gamers are primarily motivated by variety. They feed off the buzz of figuring out how a new game works. For the breadth-gamer, reading about new games and collecting games is as much a part of their hobby as playing them. They read up on new releases, follow the Essen buzz, back numerous games on Kickstarter and probably have a large collection (hundreds rather than tens) with a fairly low average number of plays per game. Breadth gamers are likely to do a lot of their gaming in clubs, because they can satisfy their need for variety without going bankrupt.
Depth-gamers are primarily motivated by mastery. They see the first few plays of a game as a learning experience necessary to start playing the game properly. They like to read (and write) about a few games that they’ve really explored. Depth-gamers are more likely to play at home in dedicated groups. They are likely to have smaller collections or be actively trying to reduce their collection following an earlier breadth-gaming phase. Oliver’s article yesterday is pretty much a practical guide to transitioning your collection from a breadth-gamer’s one to a depth gamer’s.
Because of these differences, breadth-gamers and depth-gamers favour different types of games. For a game to be regarded highly by breadth-gamers it most likely needs to be quite accessible on a first play and with groups of mixed experience-level with the game. It may well feature a mechanical innovation that can be snappily summarised, and a rapid discovery phase in which a handful of different strategies can be explored and catalogued. It doesn’t necessarily need to have much variety beyond the first five plays, because most breadth-gamers won’t get that far.
By contrast, a depth-gamer’s game may be quite opaque on first play, but hint at future subtleties. It is likely to have a long learning curve over which levels of play reveal themselves. Depth-gamers enjoy playing games with other players who have attained a similar level of competence, and dissecting the games in detail.
I would like to emphasise that I’m trying to remain value-free here - these are different types of games designed for different types of gamers, not a hierarchy.
One aspect of John’s excellent article seems to be a depth-gamer’s lament on the dominance of breadth-gaming in the hobby. The depth-gamer often finds the behaviour of the breadth-gamer irrational. Why do buy all these games they don’t play? Why are they always chasing after the new hotness when there are already so many well-established classics? But for the breadth-gamer, reading about and collecting new games is a big part of their hobby. They express the same bemusement at the devoted depth-gamer, happy to retread the same old game over and over again.
What does it mean for the hobby?
So having sketched out these two caricatures, what implications does accommodating both within the same hobby have?
First of all, most games are designed to suit the preferences of breadth-gamers. How could it be otherwise in a rational market? The breadth-gamers are the ones buying most of the games, and they’re the ones that need lots of different games to keep them happy. A depth-gamer only needs a few games they really love to last them a long time. Of course there are some games that can satisfy both types of gamer, but games don’t need to be built for depth-gamers to sell well.
Secondly, BGG itself is much more of a breadth-gaming site than a depth-gaming one. The conversation is driven by new releases, Essen speculation, and ‘the hotness’. There’s no end of first impressions and fairly shallow reviews of new games to read, but a depth-gamer will often be frustrated by the lack of content on their chosen games that goes beyond scratching the surface.
For the same reasons that most games are breadth-gamer-friendly, so are the BGG rankings. It is inevitable that most ratings will come from the people who rate most games. So there’s no particular reason that games with attributes that depth-gamers value such as opacity and replayability will rise to the top of the rankings.
There’s also a bigger problem for depth-gamers. Breadth-gamers by their nature are pretty much happy to play anything once and so can easily flock together in groups of other breadth-gamers and play whatever takes their fancy.
But to get the type of play experience they crave, depth-gamers don’t just have to seek out other depth-gamers; they have to find ones who want to get in-depth about the same game they do! And the explosion of the strategy game market in recent years, fuelled by breadth-gamers’ demand, means that it is less likely that any one game will form a critical mass of depth-gamers around it.
So what’s a poor depth-gamer to do?
All that said, I’ve noticed a number of successful examples of depth-gaming communities recently.
I’ve already talked about small groups of friends who get together to play a particular game. But at the other end of the spectrum, my gaming group London on Board is large enough that it can support multiple communities of interest within, but mostly detached from, the rest of the club. Two notable examples are the Battlestar Galactica crew, each of whom must have played well over hundred times, and the 18XXers, a ‘hobby within a hobby’ if ever there was one. Games clubs also sometimes try to foster a degree of depth-gaming with a ‘game of the month’, though previous attempts to do this at LoB foundered.
There are also online communities, mostly outside of BGG, that have coalesced around particular games. The website dominionstrategy.com has been particularly successful at building a community around strategy discussions of Dominion and its many expansions, and the founder has just launched a similar forum around Twilight Struggle. Depth-gamers can also get their gaming hit online. I’ve recently taken to playing Brass with a group of BGGers who have played it as much as me and I’m really enjoying it because I don’t win all the time!
What type of gamer are you?
I like to think of myself as a depth-gamer, and in some ways I am, but I don’t have the dedication to go all the way. I suspect I’m roughly at the midway point on the scale I outlined. My preference for my next 100 plays would be something like 10 plays each of 10 different games. My collection has just gone past the 100 mark (with a mild dose of Essen fever) but I’m working on getting it back down again, and I’m aiming for at least 10 plays of each game I rate 8 or above.
I'll finish with some questions. Do you recognise the gamer archetypes I've outlined? Which one suits you best? Does the type you are ever cause you frustrations? What do you do about them?
*[I think I may have stolen these terms from Edward Fu]
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Not much blogging this week but lots of gaming, in a variety of interesting contexts.
An arts cinema in Hackney expressed an interest in hosting a monthly board games night, following a successful one in Brixton. Paul Lister and I volunteered to run it and the inaugural event was on Monday. It was well-attended but mostly by London on Board regulars.
We're focusing the night on gateways, dexterity and party games and it was great to see a young kid come along with his dad, learn Hamsterrolle and then teach it to a group of hardened gamers. I also taught CATAN to one of the cinema staff and his friend. They liked it so much they played a second time instead of going to see The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists! More publicity needed for next month - I've already written to Time Out.
On Wednesday I attended an interesting event put on by the London Educational Games meetup group. James Wallis spoke entertainingly about designing Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game and its unexpected emergence as a classroom tool; Brett J. Gilbert talked about his personal approach to board game design; and Andrew Sage told us about how his card game Symbotica came about before giving us a chance to try it.
Brett's excellent talk revealed that many of the educational gamers present weren't very familiar with modern board games. Of course I gave LoB a plug, and I'm now cooking up a modern board games 'taster session' with the organiser of LEG.
On Friday I was in a large department store on Oxford Street demonstrating Ingenious to Easter shoppers. This came about by getting in touch with the main UK distributor Esdevium to see if there were any potential hook-ups with LoB. They're running a major demonstration programme in high-street stores around the country and have now recruited a few LoBsters to help them out.
We had a couple of boards set up and tried to get people to play for themselves. Although the store wasn't as busy as I expected, quite a number checked it out and we made a couple of sales. The biggest enthusiasts were two of the staff, who kept coming back for more! It's a wonderful feeling to see that moment when the light goes on for someone with a new game.
And finally, on Sunday, I was in a local pub playing card games with friends and happened upon another gaming group. We didn't actually get to play anything together this time but it was great to see and I hope to be back.
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