On Gamer's Games

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Mage Knight and the Problem of Too Many Good New Games

Jesse Dean
United States
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Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious predator on Earth!
Microbadge: I have more previously owned games than owned gamesMicrobadge: Out for blood - I play without mercyMicrobadge: My Favorite Contribution to BGG
In case you didn’t already see it, I have posted my review of Mage Knight the Board Game. I am pretty happy with it, which means it is the first adventure game since Arkham Horror and the first deck building game since Puzzle Strike that I actually like. Of course, neither style of game is one that I particularly favor so if you normally like either style of game, which means either this game is not really geared towards fans of those styles of games, or is a truly excellent representation of both styles of games. I believe the latter is the case, but I imagine there will be those who differ.

My aversion to adventure games has emerged largely due to my fatigue with generic fantasy settings. I played role-playing games (RPGs) from 1992 until 2010, with the vast majority of that time being focused on Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). By the time I quit I had been bored with RPGs for years. It simply took me a while to realize that I wanted two very different things out of RPGs and that I would be better served by separating them out into two entirely different activities. Because of my large amount of exposure to fantasy themed games and media during my long RPG career I have reached the point where a fantasy theme actually makes me less likely to purchase a game rather than increasing the odds or at least being a non-factor. Fortunately, my bias has rarely been an issue as most fantasy themed games are pretty awful or are adventure games, and thus usually end up seeming like pale imitations of D&D. Arkham Horror has been the one exception as far as adventure games go both because it is not fantasy themed and it is a pretty solid game. The fact that my girlfriend also enjoyed the game certainly helped too, as it was something we could play together. So the fact that I like Mage Knight is particularly exceptional because of its need to overcome my bias against fantasy board games.

Since I pre-ordered Mage Knight, I will be picking up my copy today at the Coolstuff Inc. game night. I have every intention of getting two plays in tonight, with the goal of teaching it to as many people as possible as enjoyably as possible. I would like to get as many opportunities to play Mage Knight as possible, since this game has the advantage of being one that I think will both reward repeat plays and will be enjoyable regardless of relative experience levels. Of course, in an ideal world I would play this frequently with a dedicated group, with everyone’s skills growing at a relatively even pace, but with a seven game head start, a large number of locals who are interested in learning the game, and a small number of local owners, I am not sure that is a reasonable goal at this time.

Unfortunately, my desire to deeply explore Mage Knight is going to quickly run into what may be an insurmountable obstacle: my desire to deeply explore all the other very good games that have been released in 2011. Ora et Labora is going to arrive before the end of the month (and so far I prefer Ora et Labora to Mage Knight), Eclipse should be here in the next week or two, and I still want to dive more deeply into Colonial, Dungeon Petz, Space Empire 4X, Upon A Salty Ocean, and Vanuatu. Then there are all the other games that I currently own and love that I would like to explore more thoroughly. This means that I am going to have to make some tough choices about what I want to play over the next few months. Some of these choices will be decided by my extended gaming group, other choices will be made by available group size, and the rest will be determined by the whim of the moment, but inevitably one or more of these games will not get the amount of play time I would prefer out of them. The question is what to do about it?

Assuming that I only play a game with the optimal player counts, which is typical for me, and that I focus mostly on playing games from late 2011 and onward, this is the likely breakdown of group size vs. games played:

From gallery of doubtofbuddha

*1 is the highest play priority
**Assumed ideal player number, I strongly suspect that this number will be revised with more thorough exploration.
Eclipse gets a very high play priority simply because its rating is the one that is most in flux. I had certain concerns after my first play, and I want to see whether my concerns are valid or not, if they are then it could pretty easily move up to an 8 or a 9. Dungeon Petz and Upon A Salty Ocean are also ones that I don’t think I have explored enough and who have very tentative ratings at this point, though I do think that they are more likely to stay in their current position then Eclipse is. The most difficult decisions will come when I have three players, as that is where Ora et Labora and Mage Knight are directly competing. I may have to try to arrange more three player sessions in order to ensure that both get frequent plays.

So I have a general plan of what I want to play and when I will play it, but we will have to see how effectively this translates into actual play time. I will probably take a look at how frequently these games really got played in about 6 months. It will be interesting to see how well my intentions translate into reality.
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