When Problems aren't a Problem for Me
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Recommend
17 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
Okay ... I'm going to skip right ahead to the conclusion of this geeklist. I'm glad there all different types of games for different situations and different types of players. Variety is the spice of my gaming life!

Now on to the beginning ...

One of the great things about modern game design is the effort given to minimize some of the problems of board games ... Lack of Player Interaction (multi-player solitaire), Downtime, Randomness, Player Elimination and Excessive Length. This is admirable! But I'd like to explore some of these problems and cite some examples of when each one can be a problem for me, and ones where maybe they aren't much of a problem ...

Feel free to comment or add your own.
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:951]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Lack of Player Interaction (multi-player solitaire)

I have a major soft spot for the Empire Builder series. It was the second gateway after Catan for me, and introduced me to the wonderful world of Route Planning, Pick-up & Deliver and Train games. Plus you get to draw on the board with crayons and it doesn't get much cooler than that.

But the whole series could be the prime example of several of the game design problems I've been discussion ... downtime and excessive length for certain. But it's probably THE number one example of multi-player solitaire. Really the only interaction you'll see is in large, multi-player games (four or more) where resource scarcity and city and town build limitations start to matter. And if you're playing with that many people then the game is really going to drag (but of course that's a separate issue ...)

When it comes to interaction you really are on an island when playing any of these games.

So how much of a problem is it, really? If you're looking for an interactive game then it's a huge problem because there's no way to correct it. But with the volume of reviews, discussions and other resources on this site I can't imagine a game owner reading this geek list wouldn't know exactly what they were getting when the opened the box.

The thing with the Empire Builder series is that there are no illusions, no false promises of interaction that never appears. And sometimes I just want to do my own thing while you do your own thing and then let's compare and see who's thing is better. Um, in a manner of speaking.

I have fond memories of having the Empire Builder or Eurorails board set up on the kitchen table ... and then my brother and I each taking turns making a move and leaving the game, often with instructions (just keep moving my train until I get to Kansas City ...). I remember discussion variant ideas with my brother that would let you do things like steal other player's contracts or leaving discarded goods on the board at their location ... but we never did experiment with any of those changes. And frankly I think anything that requires you to sit at the table and pay attention during other people's turns maybe takes a little bit away from what the game is.

Actually lately I've taken to playing the computer AI version that I found on Chaosbreaker's Fantastic Geek List of Computer AIs. I think it solves a lot of the downtime and length issues. And like I said, the lack of player interaction isn't a problem for me, anyway.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
2. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:116]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Lack of Player Interaction (multi-player solitaire)

Ah ... the perennial whipping boy for Multiplayer Solitaire. I don't believe it really is, and this geek list isn't about supporting or defending that argument ... but it IS less directly confrontational than even most other modern games.

So how much of a problem is it, really? In this case I actually think it's actually a benefit.

When a new gamer suggests to me that they want to try something heavier than an introductory game, this is often the bridge game that I'll choose. Why? Because the subtle interaction is much less threatening to a new gamer. No one is shipping your coffee. No one is cutting off your route. No one is attacking your forces. It frees up the new gamer to explore the game's mechanisms without worrying about what the other gamers are trying to do.

Of course a person who plays that way may not have a competitive final score ... they might regret building placement, or going after too many landscapes early ... but in my experience new players don't feel it's because they got chewed up by the other players. Even if that's what happened.

I do a lot of game teaching and have had a very high success rate using this game with that target audience, and I think the alleged "solitaire" aspect is a big part of the reason why.

Of course the new version has the optional common playing area (pictured). I'm not familiar with that version, though.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
3. Board Game: Torres [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:402]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Downtime

One of the biggest factors in determining how much downtime I can tolerate in a game is the answer to the question "how am I able to spend this time?" In any perfect information game (for example) there is a lot to consider on every every turn. The less chaos and randomness in the game, the more you should be able to plan ahead. That's why a game like Chess rewards deep thought.

But chess is a two-player game. Suddenly increasing that to a four-player game (like Torres) increases the likelihood of a game bogging down.

So how much of a problem is it, really? In a perfect information game? For me, not too much. It's up to the table to make sure the game moves at an agreeable pace. And due to the nature of the game I can (and should!) spend most of the time in between turns planning out what I want to do next.

There are people in my game group who'd avoid a game like Torres because of it's slow, methodical play. And there are plenty of times when I'm not up for that either. So as long as I'm in the mood and making an informed decision, I'd say it's not a problem for me at all.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
4. Board Game: Conquest of the Empire [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1135]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Downtime

Multi-player wargames can also lead to a lot of downtime. There's a lot to do on each turn, and unless you're the one getting attacked chances are you're not able to do very much. The chaos of multiple player activity combined with randomness of dice rolls make it too difficult to plan too far in advance. Of course some games (I'm thinking Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) here) go to great lengths to give the other players something to do even when it's not their turn ...

So how much of a problem is it, really? That depends on a lot. Conquest of the Empire is a game I enjoy a lot, and chances are if we're playing it then it's an event that's been planned well in advance. For me this is not something that "just happens" on a game night. And if that's the case then I'm psychologically prepared for the downtime. I consider it part of the investment cost in playing an epic game like this.

Also, because most games in this category don't carry the same strategic depth as a "serious" game I'll often feel free to use the downtime for social interaction. As long as I'm not distracting the active participants, of course.

And if this picture is any indication some players might expect more social interaction than others ...
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
5. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Downtime

"Draw a Card/Tile to begin your turn ..."

Okay ... as far as I'm concerned there's really no reason for this to be a rule in any game. Whether a player has new text to read or has to think about where to position a tile, there really should be an opportunity to do this while it's not their active turn.

So how much of a problem is it, really? Huge. Or maybe not at all. I can't think of an example of a game where this couldn't just be switched to "Draw a card/tile to end your turn." When I'm teaching Carcassone I don't even bother explaining that it's a deviation from the core rules.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
6. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:623]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Randomness

Randomness isn't necessary for a good game (see 'Perfect Information'), but used right it can add a lot of intrigue, tension and replayability. But if there's too much then it devalues the decisions you make in the game, rendering it low brow and frustrating. The important distinction is that the random elements either need to be minimal (say the plantation tiles in Puerto Rico, for example) or there has to be ways to mitigate the luck factor.

I think time is a huge factor in my tolerance for Randomness. The shorter the game, the more likely a heavily random outcome won't bother me. Can't Stop is all about how you roll the dice, calculating percentages and knowing when to quit.

So how much of a problem is it, really? 15 minute filler? That's fine. Half Hour or so? Well ... as long as there is tension and some interesting decisions. Can't Stop fits that description well for me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
7. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.39 Overall Rank:15345]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Randomness

On the other end of the time spectrum ...

I think Monopoly is an example of a game that has a lot of interesting and dynamic elements, but is hindered by one fatal flaw; two of the single most important elements of the game (movement and purchasing) are dictated by one single random element: the dice.

So how much of a problem is it, really? It's a big one. I'm not a Monopoly hater at all, but unlike modern games I find that Monopoly doesn't give you a sufficient number of options to mitigate unlucky dice rolls. If I'm going to play a three hour game (and I have no problem doing that), I need to have more control over what I can do.

For some people, Die Macher has a similar problem. Certainly randomness isn't as central as it is in Monopoly (it's pretty much restricted to the polls and certain increases in party membership), but when compared to the four to five hour investment there are those who can't stand the thought that their carefully laid plans might come crashing down with an unfavorable poll without any chance for recourse.

I'd counter that there's enough you can do to prepare for the impact (including winning control of the polls yourself ...) But to each his own.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
8. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.35 Overall Rank:4]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Randomness

Despite its Top Ten popularity, I sometimes see Twilight Struggle get dismissed as being "too random" (whether it be the card draws or the die rolling for coup, realignment and the space race).

So how much of a problem is it, really? I suppose it depends on your taste. To me a heavily thematic simulation like Twilight Struggle needs to have some randomness. Without it, the game would lose a lot of its tension and drama.

And I think Twilight Struggle is a perfect example of a game that provides myriad ways to mitigate the luck. There are so many things to do with your cards ... play them as operations, as events, dump them in the space race or hold'em for next round ...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
9. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:500]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Player Elimination

Much like Randomness, I'm rather forgiving of elimination in a short game like Werewolf. Hey whatever ... give it a few minutes and I'll be playing something again. But strangely the converse is also true ... I'm especially willing to overlook Player Elimination in long, epic games. Partly because (like downtime) I think I've grown to accept/expect it what with growing up playing games like Axis & Allies, Supremacy and Diplomacy.

Somehow in a medium length game (say one to three hours) it seems less forgivable.

So how much of a problem is it, really? It can vary greatly on the situation. Is it going to be over in a few minutes? Fine. Are we at a game night with other game tables? Not a big deal, I'll get involved in something else. Is it an epic game and I've got my car and go home? Then oh well.

Everything else ... not so good.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
10. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:114]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Player Elimination

The only thing worse than actual player elimination is de facto player elimination. Where you've fallen into a position where you're hopelessly out of it, yet still rooted to the game and can only hope to not play kingmaker while getting it over with as quickly as possible.

*sigh* Age of Steam is a huge offender in De facto Elimination. And yet it's my favorite game. My 10. For whatever reason this doesn't bother me with Age of Steam. I'm so in love with the system that I'm willing to take a bit of abuse and still make it breakfast in the morning like nothing happened.

So how much of a problem is it, really? With the one exception above aside, I actually think this is a terrible problem in some games. If I'm out of the game I want to be out of the game. None of this halfway stuff.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
11. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:164]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Excessive Length

Wait a minute now ... what's excessive? This is one problem I insist can be vastly overrated. If I end up playing a long game at one of my board game nights invariably two or three people will come up to us and go "Are you still playing that game?!? That game's too long!"

Hmm. How come if I play High Society nobody comes up to me and says "That game's too short!"

So how much of a problem is it, really? Of course a game can be too long. And there are lots of short games that I really love. But if a game is going to run more than an hour to an hour and a half I need to have a progression of decisions to make.

1830 is a great example. It starts with the auction of the minor companies, melds into the initial stock round and then into company operations, managing company growth deciding whether to hold a successful company or drop it for a more profitable one. And then running multiple companies presents a whole new set of opportunities. The decisions keep changing yet every decision you make late in the game is predicated on decisions you made early in the game. There are no wasted parts and very little repetition.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
12. Board Game: Munchkin [Average Rating:5.93 Overall Rank:3354] [Average Rating:5.93 Unranked]
Mark Casiglio
United States
Ansonia
CT
flag msg tools
ConnCon 2018 March 23, 24, 25 in Stamford, CT
badge
Avatar
mbmbmb
Excessive Length


Some games just overstay their welcome. "It's too long for what it is." What does that mean? I know it's easy to pick on Munchkin ... and that there are plenty of people out there who really like it, but it's also the perfect example for me of when a game is too long ...

So how much of a problem is it, really? Munchkin is a lot shorter than 1830, but at the same time it is way too long for my tastes. The listed playing time is 45 minutes but my experience says twice that. And sometimes longer. I think it's the effect of having too many expansions (hey ... it's not my deck) but I've seen games go on for multiple hours.

The problem is not the length ... it's the game. After two hours in Munchkin I'm still making the exact same decisions I was at the beginning. Only now maybe the cards have some bigger numbers on them. There's just not enough growth there to support more than about a half hour of play to me.

Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Dungeon of Dorukan is another game I own that is guilty of this same transgression. The short game is listed at 2-4 hours. This is a fine system but the game really needs a scenario that comes in at about 90 minutes because there's just not enough growth there to support more (again, bigger numbers doesn't equate decision growth).

I'm sorry but if I've got four hours to kill there are a lot of adventure games that pack in more excitement and detail.

Oh and speaking of that there's another game I own; Long Live the King "Q: Isn't four hours an awfully long time?" "A: It sure is if you're not having fun!" That's a quote from the FAQ.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Loading... | Locked Hide Show Unlock Lock Comment     View Previous {{limitCount(numprevitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
{{error.message}}
{{comment.error.message}}
    View More Comments {{limitCount(numnextitems_calculated,commentParams.showcount)}} / {{numnextitems_calculated}} 1 « Pg. {{commentParams.pageid}} » {{data.config.endpage}}
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.