Why I Love Games, Part I - or, My Bizarre Sense of Fun
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Recommend
22 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
So, I'm trying to track down the various factors that make games fun for me. "Fun" here is used quite distinctly from "good" - there are plenty of games that I admire, love, play fanatically, that I would never call *fun*.

So here follow some pairs - games that are similar in some deep way, but where one is radically more fun than the other.

And, please, I ain't making any claims about objective fun. Fully, wholly, irredeemably subjective, this.

See the sister list to this, part II: Exhileration:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi...
Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
  • [+] Dice rolls
1. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:54]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
EL GRANDE VS SAN MARCO

I don't understand where people get off saying that El Grande is a heavy, un-fun game. This game is like silk and crack at once. Everybody in my little gang gets this feverish, happy glint in their eyes with El Grande comes out.

I think a lot of it has to do with the welding together of one completely, brutally luckless, open information, completely closed-in system - the power cards you use to bid on action order - welded to the chaotic, bizarre action cards that come out.
 
 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: San Marco [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:512]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
What really made me realize how *fun* El Grande was, was playing the, for me, unenjoyably brutal San Marco. Factors:

1. Where El Grande develops over time - with sectors building up, some people hitting their high power cards early and others hoarding theirs - San Marco, with its brutal banishments that easily clear out an area, does not. The third round feels eerile like the first, sometimes.

2. In El Grande, chaos resolves into order. All kinds of bizarre possibilities come into focus every time the action cards get flipped over. The sheer *variety* of action cards makes unexpected actions possible. And some of the action cards give you such odd powers - the mobile scoring boards that change the values of regions, for example - that you can really bend them to your will. You can do some pretty outlandish stuff. But in San Marco, the action cards are straightforward, and their applications are all within calculation's distance. Which means that the divider can pretty much figure out what each person would do with the card.

Which means that play in El Grande frequently rewards daring, creativity, and cool play; while San Marco is more about punishing mistakes. The atmosphere play El Grande is energized, wild, though intense. The atmosphere in San Marco is one of constant anxiety - lest you make the mistake that'll let the first chooser swing into the lead.
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: Expedition [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1589]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
EXPEDITION VS. WILDLIFE ADVENTURE

Wildlife Adventure, I read, had the cult following in the Alan Moon circle. Couldn't get it - but I could get my hands on Expedition, which, by most lights, was supposed to be an improved version. Many people on this board thought so. Mr. Kramer, the esteemed designer of both games, thinks Expedition is better, and blames the to-him-inexplicable continued cult following for Wildlife Adventure on the theme and graphics.
 
 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: Wildlife Adventure [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2376]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
But I don't think so. I've got 'em both now, and I think Wildlife Adventure is a better game.

The essential difference between the two is the loop rule. Both Expedition and Wildlife Adventure are network-building games, on a fixed map, where everybody is trying to hit their own secret goals. There are three tracks going at once, and anybody can build on any track. (Santa Fe/Santa Fe Rails was inspired by WA, and TransAmerica has been described by several people as Wildlife Adventure with a lobotomy.) Anyway, whenever you form a closed loop in a network in Expedition, you can branch off from any part of that loop.

In Wildlife Adventure, you can't.

So Expedition at first feels more tactically exciting. I mean, I can see why some people dig it more. You can make all kinds of neat, clever little moves - reversing direction, hitting a go-again spot, forming an unexpected loop, then dashing out from an unexpected place to snatch up a prize or (if you pay a travel voucher for another go-again) two prizes.

Neat, yes?

But something funny happens in Wildlife Adventure. In Wildlife Adventure, it's painfully difficult to double back, especially since laying track parallel to track that's already been laid costs you valuable travel vouchers. Half the games I've played, the loser lost because they were trapped out from a corner.

So basically, the network in Wildlife Adventure is much less mobile/maneuverable, so getting where you want to go is much harder and more frustrating.

Which would be bad if this were real life, but it ain't. Instead, what the frustrating difficulty of doubling back creates is increased pressure on the psychological element. Basically, screwage is much more efficient in Wildlife Adventure. In Expedition, if the expedition you were leading towards those Tibetan ruins gets diverted, all you have to do is form a loop to double back. In Wildlife Adventure, it can take a third of the game to double back to get the goddamned musk ox.

So, as it turns it, in WA, if you've got a spot you have to hit in an isolated corner - YOU'D BETTER NOT LET ON. If you can somehow mind-read your opponent and figure out where he's going, you can bide your time and in the critical moment, screw the hell out of him.

When I play Wildlife Adventure, I spend a little less time staring at the map on the board and a little more time trying to get in my opponent's head.

The whole magic of Wildlife Adventure is that the board is just constrained enough that you can, after a few times, occasionally get brilliant telepathic flashes and see what the hell your opponent is trying to do.

This... this is fun.
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}}
5. Board Game: Torres [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:401]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
TORRES VS CHESS

Torres impressed the hell out of me at first, and then, as time went on, I found myself strangely un-drawn to play it again. I figured out, eventually, that it was sort of as difficult and calculationally intense as Chess, but without the the same interest or drama.

Torres is a game of point-maximization. There are a series of small battles, for which think-ahead is vital. And a slightly cleverer board position will put you in the spot to earn more points.

But that's it. It's sort of a series of positional puzzles that are only vaguely related.
 
 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: Chess [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:416] [Average Rating:7.09 Unranked]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Chess, on the other hand, earns a certain amount of dramatic energy from the sheer interactivity of the pieces, from the meaningfulness of certain areas.

Nothing in Torres feels like *getting that knight to the center*. Nothing in Torres feels like making an analysis like... "that pawn is being protected by that pawn, which is being protected by that bishop, which is... AH! There's the weakness!"

I think the only way I can put it is, when I think back after a game of Torres, I just vaguely remember a wash of arithmetic, and a series of tight little tactical puzzles.

When I think back to a game of chess, I remember a story... first I gave up the center to build a pawn chain to the right, then I went for his weak-spot which he created when he was over-eager, but I overcommitted and left my left flank wide, wide open, and...

The enormous calculational energy in chess pays off in that dramatic moment, when you suddenly trade three pieces and your opponent smugly thinks he's up a pawn, until he realizes that HE'S LEFT HIS ROOK UNPROTECTED, HA-HAH! The drama, the tremendous changeover, makes all the calculational exhaustion worthwhile.
 
 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: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:435]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
THROUGH THE DESERT VS DOMAINE

Through the Desert is the only Knizia game I know of which I love less than the majority seems to love. I mean, T&E made me shiver with joy after about 10 minutes into my first game. Ra makes me giddy. But Through the Desert makes me a bit sleepy.
 
 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: Domaine [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:647]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
As compared to Domaine. This is not a comparison I think I've seen before, but they're both games about walling off and competitive creation of enclosures, and valuable territory within enclosures.

Through the Desert is a more tactically visible game. I can see what most of the moves my opponents can make are (the requirement that all placements be contiguous with old placements), and it basically comes down, for each player, between a choice of a few potential actions, each with different ramifications. But it all tends to be visible... if two guys are in a battle to cut each other off, you can see after a moment's calculation who will win.

Domaine is spacially weirder. Largely, I think, because of the bit where the walls: 1. are neutral - that is, you can use your opponent's walls to help build your own territory. 2. are dynamic - can shift pretty radically with a few pushes.

I think #1 is the one that really provides interest. The magic part of Domaine for me is the early game, where you sort of stare at the castles and the walls, and try to figure out where the conflicts are gonna erupt, and where your opponents are gonna build walls, and WHEN YOU CAN USE THEIR WALLS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. That weird focus on the oddities of potential growth and interaction of walls is the magic part.

Maybe I can think of it like this... Through the Desert and Domaine are both descendents of Go, the original (or at least, lasting and great) walls-and-enclosures territory game. Through the Desert removes go's freedom of movement with the contiguity requirement, removes the dynamism of capture, and replaces it with... alternate scoring possibilities. The longest caravan bit.

Domaine removes a lot of the tactical complexity of go, but replaces it with the dynamic energy of being able to use yoru opponents' walls for to your own nasty ends, and replaces the board-altering dynamism of capturing with the ability to redraw walls.

(Interestingly, the opening game of Domaine feels eerily like the opening game of Go - where, at least at my non-master level, you kind of de-focus your mind and kind of wander along the lines of possibility - see where walls will probably go up, and what you can do to control them with your limited motions. I never have to defocus and imagine like that in Through The Desert.)

So: static I find boring. Weird interactivity of walls, dynamic change, I find fun.
 
 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: You're Bluffing! [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:1249]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
YOU'RE BLUFFING

I also find You're Bluffing hella fun. I'm not sure exactly what to compare it to - maybe High Society?

I think no comparison is needed, though. The opening auction is pretty standard. I think what really pushes You're Bluffing into the high fun-o-sphere is the vicious direct attack of the cattle trade, where you can yank cards that other people have already won. In most auction games, the only interaction is *bid higher* on the lot. In You're Bluffing, you've got *bid higher*, but you've also got *wrest away*.
 
 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: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:134]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Ra is more fun than being tickled by a thousand love-monkeys. I have nothing to compare it to in my experience. I find it very hard to figure out where in its simple mechanics the extraordinary fun level comes in. I's confused.
 
 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: Daytona 500 [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1336]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
DAYTONA 500 VS TORRES

Both games by Wolfgang Kramer, both games deeply involved with positioning, blocking, and outmaneuvering, with a strictly limited # of movements.

Daytona 500, I think, is all the gleeful fun bits of Torres, without all the exhausting calculation. You've got the blocking, you've got the bottlenecks on the board, you've got all that. What you're missing is the constant need for, well, craploads of arithmetic.

Actually, I have no idea why Daytona 500 is as much fun as it is.

Wheeeee!

(Addition: I just thought of something. I'm starting to think that one of Kramer's serious talents is building complexity into the game pieces, not the game rules. That is - a lot of Kramer's games can be taught in about 2 minutes. There's enormous complexity in the system, but it's elsewhere - in the action cards in El Grande, in the multi-move cards with their weird combinations of car moves in Daytona 500, in the oddities of the very variegated map in Wildlife Adventure and Expedition.

Contrast this with Knizia, whose games rarely have differential action cards, typically have very regular boards or no boards at all, where all the complexities are emergent from the rules, and nothing else.

Knizia is a master of elegance and the slim rules that provide you with this fascinating field of play. (To a lesser degree, Mr.'s Schact and Calvino are of this line.)

Kramer is a kind of master of the baroque and roccoco - weird maps with odd locusses of energy (the space around Australia in Wildlife Adventure); bizarro action cards with weird-ass moves and strange, fascinating interactions. The game is rarely, in its design, elegant - not like Knizia. But the best part is that with Kramer, you never have to remember the baroquenesses - they're built into the cards, they're built into the oddities of the map. And you kind of surf the wave - you don't have to understand or remember all the dynamics of the game, the turbulence, but you can witness and feel it and play at that line. (Not all his games, of course, are like this. But my favorite ones are.)

The more I think about the particular cards in Daytona 500 and El Grande, the more I realize that the games should be completely out-of-control - but, for some sheer effort and ingenuity of design and balance in the cards, they're not.
 
 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: DVONN [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:346] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
DVONN VS YINSH

I'm a serious Kris Burm fan, but Dvonn is my least favorite game in the cycle - not to say it's a bad game. It's noteably un-fun. Yinsh, on the other hand, is wild fun. (Not to say it's my favorite. That honor goes to either Gipf, the deepest, or Tamsk, the most strangely elegant, unearthly, and delightful.) And I think they differ for almost exactly the same reason.

Dvonn, I think, has a very surprisingly small strategy tree. At each moment, the number of possible moves is relatively low... and the number of possible moves shrinks.

The game just seems brutally calculational. Everytime I've won, I've feel like I've won through sheer, sweat-of-the-brow effort - just crunched through possibility after possibility until I found the one without mistakes, without weaknesses, and made it.
 
 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}}
13. Board Game: YINSH [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:132] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Thi Nguyen
United States
Salt Lake City
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Yinsh, on the other hand, rides very close to chaos. The fun emerges from the chaos. You're always staring at the board, its wild swings, and suddenly possibilities pop out at you. Neat one-two combinations and forces that, like magic, get everything lined up.

Dvonn is a game of negativities and computation. Crunch through possibilities, eliminate the mistakes.

Yinsh is a game of openness, energy, and creativity. Every time I win, I feel I did it through a combination of calculation and weird insight - through inspiration.

This is all probably on purpose on Mr. Burm's part. Each game, I think, is aimed at a different part of psychology, a different bit of the brain. It probably balances the mega-meta-game of Gipf, too - my hard-calculating friends will beat me every time at Dvonn, with their greater ability to parse the strategy tree. Me, I'll probably get back points by beating them at Tamsk, which I seem to understand a bit more every day.
 
 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.