Oliver Kiley(Mezmorki)United States
I’ve done a bit more speculation over the nature and make-up of my collection, following from my prior blog post (Collection Recollection). In particular, I was interested in sorting out all of my games into more-or-less discrete buckets building off the gestalt method described in the prior post. That is, to think about how different games can be classified in a way that’s easily understood from the context of “choosing what to play” based on what the gaming group “is in the mood for.”
Here’s the breakdown with descriptions in some arbitrarily logical order. Note that the categories also consider the importance of weight, as a function of rule complexity, strategic depth, time, or any combination thereof. I was also curious to split up my collection between what might be considered more mainstream (i.e. can you find it on the shelf of a big box store?) versus what is more in the “hobby” side of the line.
***Note the pictures are some of my favorite game from the relevant category.
GENERALLY MAINSTREAM CATEGORIES
2-Player Abstract Games
These games are generally those that are either classics and have been around a long time and hence are generally recognized by people. Hive is a more modern-era outlier among the games that I own.
Backgammon, Go, Hive, Mastermind, Stratego,
2-Player Card Games
Card games designed specifically for two-players. Note that I’m only considering standalone games here, and not any of the large number of traditional card games designed for 2-players.
Lost Cities, Magnate
Traditional Card Games
Games using a 52-card deck or a close approximation. ‘Nuff said.
A broad range of games, generally mass market, aimed at families with younger children. Typically have abstract or light themes, no player elimination, short playtimes. Usually a minimal amount of strategic depth.
SET, Labyrinth, Sorry!,Frog Juice, Rack-O, and others...
Games that are not recognized classics but are often widely seen and available. Abstract themes, easy rulesets, but a lot of room for depth. I separated out this group from the Abstracts that are only 2-player games. The tagline “easy to learn a lifetime to master” conceptually applied to these sorts of games. Often very accessible to all kinds of people, gamers and non-gamers alike.
Ingenious, IOTA, Kaliko,Qwirkle
Social Party Games
I have identified this grouping specifically for party games that rely on trivia, outside knowledge, and/or personal knowledge of the other players.
Apples to Apples, Imaginiff, Taboo
Games relying primarily on use the of words. Word games are not really my favorite category of games, and often they tend to incorporate a speed element into them that’s cause for additional disinterest.
Bananagrams, Boggle, Scattergories
HOBBY GAMING CATEGORIES
Take-That Card Games
These are card-driven games that feature a high degree of targeted interaction and can be highly dependent on luck-of-the-draw for determining who wins or loses. The strategic depth is minimal, but there may be a high level of table talk, diplomacy, or negotiation going on. Straddles the line between mainstream and hobby markets.
Plague & Pestilence, Munchkin, Monopoly Deal Card Game, Chrononauts, Fluxx, and others...
My definition is a probably a little different than other people, but games in this category I tend to think of being highly thematic with a decent balance between depth and complexity. There is often a similar level of politicking going on as compared to take-that card games, but there may be strong additional mechanics that can mitigate this to some extent; or it’s a pure negotiation game. Still, as a broadly light group of games, turns move fast. Humor definitely a plus here.
King of Tokyo, Lifeboats, Drakon (second edition), Humans!!!, Pit, and others...
Strategic Card Game (Light-, Mid-weight)
This was a tough category to pin down. This group includes card-driven game with strong strategic elements; either timing, spatial, or logistical in nature. They specifically are NOT engine building type games however. They may feature direct interaction or other high levels of interaction that allow you to mess with other players; but the overall feel is significantly more strategic and tactical compared to take-that style games.
Light-Weight: Honor of the Samurai,Monad, Dominant Species: The Card Game, and others...
Mid-Weight: Illuminati (Second Edition)
Engine Building Games (Gateway-, Light-, Mid-weight)
Decisively “euro-style” games that focus primarily on VP accumulation and “building up” of assets towards victory. Interaction between players is generally indirect by way of blocking, turn order advantage, drafting, etc; rather than direct conflicts and attacks. Emphasis often on resource collection, conversion, and transformation into VP’s. Deck-building, tableau-building, and worker placement games often fall here.
Gatway: Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
Light-Weight: Stone Age, Dominion,7 Wonders, and others...
Mid-Weight: Race for the Galaxy, Glen More,Dog Eat Dog, and others...
Spatial Euro Games (Gateway-, Light-, Mid-weight)
On some level, spatial euro’s are “abstract” games at heart, but are distinct because there are often additional mechanical devices layered onto the design that inherently creates a more complex game. The emphasis on these spatial euro games is on position, network/route building, area-control, etc. They typically have one or more means of directly interacting (conflicting) with your opponents over shared territory.
Gatway: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, Taluva
Light-Weight: Carpe Astra, Samurai
Mid-Weight: Tigris & Euphrates, Acquire, Inca Empire
“Dudes on a Map” Games
Dudes on a map games focus principally around area control and building and allocating “dudes,” which are used to attack your opponents and gain more territory. They function as a middle-ground between abstract or spatial euro games and more comprehensive empire-building games. Generally about conflict/war/etc.
Cyclades, Small World, Risk,Risk 2210 A.D., and others...
Empire Building Games (Mid-, Hefty-weight)
These are games aimed towards providing a full empire building experience. Typically, such games include aspects of exploration, growth, development, conflict, and technological advancement. A range of distinct mechanics is incorporated into the design to reflect the various activities of empire building. Often longer and heavier games with opportunity for negotiation, direct conflict, and interaction.
Hegemonic, Antike, Supernova,Tempus
MINOR HOBBY CATEGORIES
Yeup, cooperative games. Let’s work together! I’m not a huge cooperative game fan, but I enjoy them every so often with the right group.
Forbidden Island, Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game, Lord of the Rings
Adventure / Dungeon Crawl
Games where players typically assume the role of a character and go on an adventure of some. May ultimately be cooperative or competitive in nature. May be a paired down or simplified expression of a role-playing game.
HeroQuest, The New Dungeon!
Get to the finish line first! Focus on spatial movement and movement planning of a single object.
Focuses on the execution and resolution of an encounter of some type.
Necromunda, Warhammer 40,000 (fourth edition), VOR: The Maelstrom, BattleTech
Collectable Card Games (CCG)
Magic: The Gathering, Rage, Star Trek: Customizable Card Game (first edition),Heresy
The categories above aren’t meant to be exhaustive, they are just the breakdown of the games I have in my collection. I don’t own any wargames, or collectible miniature games, or role-playing games, etc, hence they don’t show up in the list. But more importantly, these are categories were developed for myself to aid my thinking about what games to play on a particular occasion. Each person will likely need to identify their own categories based-on what types of games they enjoy or seek out.
The table and graph below summarizes the number of games I own in each of these categories as well as how many plays I had over the course of 2012 in each category. I found it illuminating to look back, as a point of reflection, on the distribution of games in my collection versus what is actually being played. There are clearly some categories of games I don’t care much for and didn’t end up playing – which is fine by me. This points out where in the collection I could free up some shelf space.
The table below is ordered by number of games owned in that category.
Main Stream [33 games]
 - Family Games (12 plays)
 - 2-Player Abstract (0 plays)
 - Abstract Games (20 plays)
 - Traditional Card Games (8 plays)
 - Social Party Games (3 plays)
 - Word Games (0 plays)
 - 2-Player Card (33 plays)
Hobby Games [59 games]
 - Engine-Building Games (18 plays)
 - Spatial Euro Games (58 plays)
 - Strategic Card Games (3 plays)
 - Take-That Card Games (8 plays)
 - Beer-n-Pretzel Games (3 plays)
 - “Dudes on a Map” Games (17 plays)
 - Empire Building Games (10 plays)
 - CCG’s (0 plays)
 - Cooperative Games (0 plays)
 - Tactical Miniatures (0 plays)
 - Adventure/Dungeon Crawling (0 plays)
 - Racing Games (0 plays)
TOTAL = 92 Games / 195 total plays (3.75 plays / week)
I’m at a point where I really don’t see adding too many games to my collection. There are a few I have my eye on, and still more that I definitely want to try – but I have a lot of games I’d like to play many more times and get a richer understanding of before moving on (if moving on at all).
I really enjoy spatial euro games, dudes-on-a-map, and empire building games, so I was happy to see those accounting, collectively, for the biggest group of plays. I suspect I will continue to have a high number of abstract and 2-player card game plays next year, as those tend to be the games I play with my wife the most on a weekly basis. I am hoping to play more beer-n-pretzel games and strategic card games next, King of Tokyo, Lifeboats, and the revival of Illuminati in particular. But we will have to wait and see!
So how about you? Do have a way of grouping or breaking down the games you own? Do you tend to play certain types of games more than others? What other categories of games do you see? I’m curious to hear!
Musings on games, design, and the theory of everything. www.big-game-theory.com
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