My Annual Trip to the Analysts’ Couch – Turning A Personality Profile into a Wish List
Chuck Uherske
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Rockville
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As I post this list, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable low ratings that it will garner. For yes, indeed, it is another of those “What Should I Buy?” lists offering little pleasure to those who aren’t inclined to offer their help.

I venture forth, however, because my previous lists of this type very successfully achieved their purpose. The aim of the list is to go about this eharmony.com-style: generate a gaming personality profile by describing my reactions to various games I’ve played – several likes and several dislikes. And to proceed from there to several games at which I’m looking, soliciting feedback on whether they are compatiable with my gaming profile as I’ve presented it.

What I have found in the past is that my self-description has invariably produced many helpful comments on the candidate games I’ve listed, but also several suggestions of games I had not explored. Several of the games in my collection that I now greatly enjoy were originally recommended to me by fellow BGGers via a similar exercise.

And so on we go. Thanks in advance for your insights, comments, and creative thinking.

I’ll list in order:
Games I like, and why
Games I don’t like so much as others, and why
Games I’m checking out
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1. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:574]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. OK, yes, it’s true, I like T-fab’s theme, like everyone else. But that alone wouldn’t do it for me. I think that what I like most about T-fab is the subtle, mysterious math and planning.

T-fab isn’t a dry calculational exercise, though it is very mathy. The zero-sum auction mechanism causes an interplay between timing issues, paying others as you get something for yourself, knowing a portion of what is upcoming, but only guesstimating beyond that.

T-fab is an example of how a really interesting mathematical problem can fuel a game for me. Numbers fly around in my head but never so precisely as the actual manipulation of equations. It helps to have some experience playing the game, on the one hand, but on the other, it’s not so definite a matter of knowing how much a jester is typically worth. The values are more subtle and shifting from game to game.

I like the fact that each time I play T-fab, I am basically refining a sort of “system” that has guided my play before, and which requires editing based on the latest results. But I also like the fact that the “system” can’t know anything in advance about the value of anything in the game. So the system has to be very vague – principles rather than prices.
 
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2. Board Game: Venture [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2703]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. Classic Chuck-style game. You don’t have to set up a zillion pieces, it’s just deal the cards, and let’s go. The rules are very simple, but the play is deep.

Like T-fab, Venture’s heart is a complex math that doesn’t yield to direct calculation. There’s a fascinating scoring system, some direct multiplication and addition, but a lot of estimating probabilities. There’s even some resource optimization, though again, it’s very subtle.

If Venture has a flaw, it’s that one player inadvertently targeting the wrong opponent can imbalance the game. With experienced players, it lacks that flaw.
 
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3. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:207]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. I suppose it’s only fair to admit that one of the reasons I probably love Acquire is that I have a soft spot for Sid Sackson and for the old 3M line generally.

Acquire uses luck beautifully, an aspect it has in common with Lost Cities, Venture, and other classic, timeless games. They entertain you over a lifetime because you don’t really reach a point of diminishing returns. Ultimately in Princes of Florence you figure out what each piece is roughly worth. Or, as in Puerto Rico, there are well-studied optimal paths in certain situations.

But in Acquire, the tiles come up quite different every time, just as with a game where the card shuffle changes the character of the challenge. Thus, each game has a completely different feel, and you have to make your choices based on different emerging situations. It’s a wonderful comfort zone where the rules are simple and familiar and you don’t have to think about them, but the game itself, despite having few moving parts, unfolds in a completely different way.

I should mention something else about Acquire. I’m not that much in love with spatial manipulation games. But Acquire has a nice balance of calaculation and planning in space. What is happening in space is simple enough that I find it easier to handle than, say, Pueblo.

I don’t love everything about Acquire. If you fall behind early, you’re toast. Though I’ve come to accept this in Acquire, I wouldn’t want to duplicate that feature in the next game that I buy.
 
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4. Board Game: Daytona 500 [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:1333]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. I included this one because it’s one where I like the child-friendly whimsy of the layout. There’s something to be said for the juvenile fun of racing cars around a track.

Beyond that, I like this game because, again, the rules are simple, and you don’t have to memorize what three thousand different characters or buildings can do. Figuring out a strategy and then tactics based on a certain amount of given information up front is entertaining enough. It shares with T-fab the joy of having enough info before you to plan a way forward, but enough of the unexpected that you’re constantly having to re-adjust.

This game may veer too slightly on the luck-heavy side of things. But I still very much enjoy it.
 
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5. Board Game: I'm the Boss! [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:930]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. I included this one because I have surprised myself with how much I enjoy it, so I figured it was a key data point.

It’s a negotiation game, and you’ll see below that if negotiation rears its head in the wrong circumstances, I don’t like it. I don’t like games that are about cajoling and browbeating, where I have to deal with a sales pitch when I’d rather just play my game.

But what I love about I’m the Boss is that there is an interesting card hand management game at its core, wrapped up in the apparent chaos of negotiation.

Sure, you’ve got to cut your deals, but you always have to bear in mind how much your cards are worth and how best to spend them. And again, the rules are simple.
 
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6. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:28]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. One reason I like this game is that I have enough games that are about acquiring points along a track, representing nothing that is very tangible.

Power Grid has the calculational aspect that I like, but it’s also combined with some long-term strategic thinking and also it feels like you’re actually doing something – building a power network. Someone here scoffed at the idea that it could be compared to Monopoly, but when it was previously said, I did relate to it somewhat. Not that I like Monopoly, but I like the familiar feel of a game where you’re investing in capabilities and then reaping the profits. I suppose I do care about theming somewhat, or at least about having a goal that I understand.
 
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7. Board Game: Wise and Otherwise [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2147]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. I don’t normally tend to like party games, so I put this here to show the type of party game I do like.

This game really calls on people to be creative. And boy, do they respond. I’m always impressed at how people get into the swing of things and skillfully imitate the cadence, timbre and sometimes the apparent senselessness of exotic proverbs.

If I bought another party game, I wouldn’t want one with “ready made” creativity, a la Apples to Apples, but one that encourages people to stretch their creative minds as much as they can.
 
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8. Board Game: Breaking Away [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:1972]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. Again, somewhat mathy, which by now you should know that I like. But what I also enjoy about it in this context is that it feels like planning a campaign, not just doing a calculation.

Of course, again, when I say mathy, I don’t mean just calculating an optimal result, but thinking about various ways the situation could be in the future, and doing something that is sensible based on the numbers.

This game also is enjoyable because it has the race fun similar to Daytona 500 – always nice to simulate a sporting activity.
 
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9. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:294]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Like. I play this game more often than I’d like, but it is a good example of the sort of thing I take to. Again, the math is front and center, but again, it’s the somewhat intuitive math of probability rather than doing pure calculations. I greatly enjoy the science of probability, to the small extent that I know about it, and this game taps that.

I also like the fact that, like Venture and Acquire, it seems endlessly replayable. Every time you shuffle the cards, the game takes on a different feel. What’s particularly nice about this game is that the variability tends to affect both players similarly – some games are tougher for both players to scratch out points, some games easier.
 
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10. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:139] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Chuck Uherske
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OK, now to the games I don’t like so much.

Carc has apparently simple rules, and variability, so you’d think I’d like it. But the luck role is very high and can only be really be mitigated by pleading and cajoling. I don’t like the fact that if others draw better tiles than I, then I’m in a position of trying to convince them to make a play that is better for me. And I don’t like a game that turns on what type of alliances form, however accidentally. You’re at the mercy of fate and of others’ actions in this game, and I don’t like that feeling at all.
 
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11. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Don’t Like So Much. Haven’t played this one enough to pass fair judgment on it, but what the hey, I want the games I buy to make a good first impression on me. This feels like Acquire but with a zillion extra rules just to make things complicated – different types of tiles, different types of conflicts. After all that, it seems like the role of luck is greater, not less. And for what? To acquire “points” and to have the most points in your weakest suit. The complexity doesn’t seem to add value to the gameplay, and the scoring is not very satisfying. If a game is going to be more complicated, the role of luck in determining the outcome really needs to be tamped down.
 
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12. Board Game: Cartagena [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:845]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Don’t Like So Much. I put this game here as an example of something else I don’t like in games: Games where how the player on your right plays is a key determinant of how you end up. Watching a player win because the player to his right fell asleep just isn’t that fun.
 
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13. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:53]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Don’t Like So Much. There is much I like about El Grande, but one big thing that I don’t. One the one hand you have Princes of Florence, where each game you play, you learn more about how much a builder is worth. In the middle you have Acquire, where the tile draws make each game different, but you can carry strategic insights from game to game. This is on the other side. In El Grande, the card actions you pull up each round give you a completely different set of “rules” as it were. It’s almost as though you are learning a new game each time you play. As everyone struggles to figure out what use can be made of these various moves they’re not expecting to see, the game bogs down. And once again, just building points on a track.

I like the game situations to vary, but the rules of engagement to be settled.
 
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14. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:15]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Don’t Like So Much. May as well include it. Too many pieces, too many rules, too many special powers for the buildings. And it all feels very abstract – what I am trying to do? Why is the currency money some of the time, and victory points in other circumstances? A classic example of loading a game up with all sorts of particulars until the basic unifying principle of the game is no longer enjoyed (by me, anyway).
 
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15. Board Game: MarraCash [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:1718]
Chuck Uherske
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OK, now the games I think I might enjoy, and would like feedback on.

This one has been described as spare and elegant but deep. The theme seems to work well with the mechanics.

As I go through these, I’d appreciate it if you could think about which of the following list seem best suited to my tastes, and whether there are others I’ve missed that you’d recommend.
 
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16. Board Game: Show Manager [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:1033]
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Game I Think I Might Like. One of the highest-rated games by my Geekbuddies. Seems to be a game of drafting and evaluation and optimization, with a cute theme. I’ve enjoyed the other Dirk Henn game I’ve played (Timbuktu.)
 
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17. Board Game: High Society [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:860]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Think I Might Like. The description intrigues me. Am I overdosing on Kinizia auction games? I have Modern Art and Medici. But this one seems like it might be light and clever fun.
 
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18. Board Game: Metropolis [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:3854]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Think I Might Like. Sid Sackson. Has a negotiation element with some spatial play. It’s been my experience that Sackson handles both well.
 
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19. Board Game: Taj Mahal [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:306]
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Game I Think I Might Like. Seems unique to me, like there’s nothing else like it. Might have counterintuitive rules at first but the descriptions are tantalizing.
 
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20. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:179]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Think I Might Like. Looking for a game to play when I’m sick of playing Lost Cities. I’m hoping my beloved might be willing to play this as a change of pace. Will this do the job for a spouse who loves Lost Cities? I think she’s more taken with card games than board games generally, as she intuits the probabilities that I calculate.
 
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21. Board Game: Fearsome Floors [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:908]
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Game I Think I Might Like. I like the whimsy of the theme and feel like the concrete nature of the task might appeal to me as it does in Daytona 500. Worried that there might be too much luck.
 
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22. Board Game: Goldland [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:1677]
Chuck Uherske
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Game I Think I Might Like. I’ve heard it described as puzzle-like, which appeals to me. The theme seems concrete and interesting, plus the southwest US is one of my favorite places to visit, so I’m hoping the atmosphere will be rich.
 
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23. Board Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis! [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:232]
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Game I Think I Might Like. You’ve probably noticed that I am more open to older games than are a lot of BGG regulars. My fear is that this one would be too luck-driven or too vicious, but I like the feeling of summoning up gaming experiences of long ago.
 
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24. Board Game: Why Did the Chicken...? [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:4551]
Chuck Uherske
United States
Rockville
Maryland
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Game I Think I Might Like. I suppose I should just try this, for a friend has it. It seems like the best candidate to follow up Wise and Otherwise. Would be curious as to whether you agree or whether another is better.
 
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25. Board Game: Trias [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1675]
Gerald Cameron
Canada
Unspecified
Nova Scotia
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The number of high quality, elegant, mathematical games is rather low, so I thought I'd offer a few suggestions that miss on one or two of your criteria, but still feel like you might like them. Hopefully you'll find that they are at least worth looking into.

Trias is a really nice, elegant game, and I find it a lot of fun. Of course, it's an area influence game, which makes it fundamentaly spatial rather than mathematical, but it doesn't rely on special power cards to inject chaos like El Grande or Louis XIVth. Instead, the randomly set up modular board (which is a tad fiddly to set up, but not much worse than Settlers) creates unique situations each play. The card draw is actually less random than the tile draw in Acquire, and the Action Point system is a lot neater and less prone to Analysis Paralysis than, say, Tikal is reputed to be.

Some people complain that Trias is dry and abstract, but I've found that it really comes to life for me, perhaps because I have read a bit about the Punctuated Equilibrium version of evolution ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium ) and Island Biogeography ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_biogeography ).
 
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