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Subject: Spielbox, PURE JOY OF THINKING - Discussion Thread rss

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Martin Grider
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(First off, I searched for a thread like this and didn't find one, so I apologize if this is a duplicate. And please point me in the direction of any other Pure Joy of Thinking discussion on BGG or elsewhere!)

I've been a Spielbox subscriber for a little over a year now, and consistently find myself drawn to and fascinated by this series written by columnist L.U.Dikus. Now when I get a new issue, I page through it until I find the column and consume it, often with BGG open in front of me, marking games I want to play as I go.

One of the things I find most fascinating is the taxonomy and categorization of game mechanics, and the format of these articles, (at least as near as I can tell), is usually to take one mechanic or branch of mechanics and explore the history and evolution of that mechanic from one game to the next. This is not limited to Abstract games, I don't think, but heavily biased toward them.

I'll start this thread off with a dissection of the latest article, about "Declaration Games", or, as the pull-quote describes "No starting player, an absolute equality of opportunity, a high level of stress -- these are the three features that are distinctive for the small group of luck-free games of declaration." Games listed and described in the article include Corona, Moonstar, Harun, Orbit, Ricochet Robots, Mutant Meeples, Crazy Circus, Pack & Stack, and Zoowaboo.

I actually count this type of game as one of my passions, with my favorite examples being Ricochet Robots, and a card game conspicuously absent from this article... SET.

I do not mean to criticize the article, which was absolutely fantastic, and I even believe I know the reason for the omission of Set, (and other games like it including Triovision, Acuity and Spot it!). Aside from the fact that these are arguably "lighter" games, the article deals almost entirely with games where you make a bid for the thing that you see, or rather, you declare something that other players then have an opportunity to overcome or outbid with a declaration of their own. The bidding mechanic is described up-front in the article, with a nod to classic card-game examples of bidding in trick-taking games. So I think Bidding was merely left out of the pull-quote as an essential (fourth) feature of games in the article.

Two observations about Set spring to mind... 1. you might argue that with Set, you are also declaring a bid of one, and it's just acted upon immediately, giving no other player a chance to bid (or rather, starting the bid over again immediately), and 2. this suggests a new-to-me way to play set, where you declare how many sets you see, and start a minute timer to let others have a chance to outbid you in the number of sets they see before the timer's end.

I would also categorize all of these games not as having "No starting player", but rather "No player turns", or with the phrase "Simultaneous play". This means there is literally NO DOWNTIME in these games. You are playing continuously from start to finish. I think this is the origin of the "high level of stress" written about in the article.

Another thing that fascinates me with games of this type is the way they achieve variation. After each bid or resolution of actions, the gameboard must be different in some way, or it would be incredibly boring to play. (Actually, that's one of the most oft heard complaints about Ricochet Robots when I pull it out, is that the game is boring. Too bad for those who see it that way!) The way these games change the playing environment after each turn, but maintain a playable state is almost recursive. It's reminiscent of Tetris and other Abstract Strategy computer games. (Note that I actually wrote about this a bit on my blog back in 2008, arguing that action puzzle games might also be called recursive puzzle games.)

So does anyone else love this series as much as I do? Have more thoughts about the latest article? Thanks.
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Russ Williams
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grid wrote:
(First off, I searched for a thread like this and didn't find one, so I apologize if this is a duplicate. And please point me in the direction of any other Pure Joy of Thinking discussion on BGG or elsewhere!)

I have no idea - I never heard of the column until now.

Quote:
Aside from the fact that these are arguably "lighter" games, the article deals almost entirely with games where you make a bid for the thing that you see, or rather, you declare something that other players then have an opportunity to overcome or outbid with a declaration of their own. The bidding mechanic is described up-front in the article, with a nod to classic card-game examples of bidding in trick-taking games. So I think Bidding was merely left out of the pull-quote as an essential (fourth) feature of games in the article.


Yes, that seems a significant interesting difference between the 2 categories of real-time pattern recognition games you describe. Good distinction.

Quote:
this suggests a new-to-me way to play set, where you declare how many sets you see, and start a minute timer to let others have a chance to outbid you in the number of sets they see before the timer's end.

Cool idea, though maybe hard to remember all the sets you find!

Someone recently showed us another Set variant, where you look for 4 cards, which are 2 pairs which are both missing the same 3rd card to be a set. That was a fun change of pace.

Quote:
I would also categorize all of these games not as having "No starting player", but rather "No player turns", or with the phrase "Simultaneous play". This means there is literally NO DOWNTIME in these games. You are playing continuously from start to finish. I think this is the origin of the "high level of stress" written about in the article.

I'll make a distinction here: this seems true of Set, but not of Ricochet Robots, because there is the pause of "proving your declaration" and then setting things up for the next one. In Set, people can still find sets even as one set is being claimed, but in RR there is a natural pause where you can't really keep declaring.


PS: Since you like Ricochet Robots, I'll toot my horn and mention my Looney pyramid-based Ricochet Pyramids inspired by RR.
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Spencer C
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russ wrote:
PS: Since you like Ricochet Robots, I'll toot my horn and mention my Looney pyramid-based Ricochet Pyramids inspired by RR.


Thread-jacking here to ask how you rate your design. I bookmarked it back when you first mentioned working on it, I'm curious if you feel it's held up to repeated play.
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UanarchyK wrote:
russ wrote:
PS: Since you like Ricochet Robots, I'll toot my horn and mention my Looney pyramid-based Ricochet Pyramids inspired by RR.


Thread-jacking here to ask how you rate your design. I bookmarked it back when you first mentioned working on it, I'm curious if you feel it's held up to repeated play.

I haven't played it lately (I'm generally more into pure abstracts than on real-time games), but for me it successfully scratches the same itch as Ricochet Robots. The differences in the details (specifically that the goal tower does not block but other towers do block) makes its "tactics" sufficiently different from RR that it feels like a legitimately different game to me, albeit certainly inspired by RR. (Unfortunately the fact that the goal tower doesn't block also causes the game to be hard to learn for some people, who have difficulty grokking/remembering that...) I taught it to various other people, at least some of whom liked it.

It's fast to play, so worth trying at least. Plus you can always try it solo, just to solve puzzle after puzzle for practice.
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Martin Grider
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russ wrote:
grid wrote:
this suggests a new-to-me way to play set, where you declare how many sets you see, and start a minute timer to let others have a chance to outbid you in the number of sets they see before the timer's end.

Cool idea, though maybe hard to remember all the sets you find!


For sure, that would be part of the fun! (Also it might be interesting to use a pen & paper for scoring, as you could potentially use the same card(s) for multiple sets.)

russ wrote:
Someone recently showed us another Set variant, where you look for 4 cards, which are 2 pairs which are both missing the same 3rd card to be a set. That was a fun change of pace.


Very cool. I'm definitely going to have to try this out sometime. My initial reaction is that it feels like this variant would be lots harder...?


russ wrote:
Quote:
I would also categorize all of these games not as having "No starting player", but rather "No player turns", or with the phrase "Simultaneous play". This means there is literally NO DOWNTIME in these games. You are playing continuously from start to finish. I think this is the origin of the "high level of stress" written about in the article

I'll make a distinction here: this seems true of Set, but not of Ricochet Robots, because there is the pause of "proving your declaration" and then setting things up for the next one. In Set, people can still find sets even as one set is being claimed, but in RR there is a natural pause where you can't really keep declaring.


Hmmm. You're definitely right that there is a pause in the brain-burning activity, but if you're serious about the game, you'd better be still paying attention in order to keep your opponent honest, as well as get started looking for the next solution as soon as possible. (In other words, just because you're not declaring, doesn't mean you're not playing.)

russ wrote:
PS: Since you like Ricochet Robots, I'll toot my horn and mention my Looney pyramid-based Ricochet Pyramids inspired by RR.


This looks great! I'm going to see if I can convince anyone to play it with me this weekend! Some very minor feedback on the icehousegames.org entry: The hard setup example only shows 8 towers instead of 9.
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grid wrote:
This looks great! I'm going to see if I can convince anyone to play it with me this weekend!

Thanks!
Quote:
Some very minor feedback on the icehousegames.org entry: The hard setup example only shows 8 towers instead of 9.

Well, of course - that's one of the things which makes it harder! whistle


(Seriously - thanks for catching the error. I have just added the missing 9th tower.)
 
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For a purist, I would really see the attraction of this genre. The only non-pure thing in abstracts seem to be the starting player (and the advantage or disadvantage that comes from being it).

Games like set seem to be more balanced where each player has the same opportunities as his or her opponent (although you might argue that there could be some luck in the card draw if say, one player was better at recognizing a certain kind of sets).

One annoying problem that can come with it is that it is not always clear who shouted out "set" first.

I have actually been playing a lot of set myself and I've considered getting Ricochet Robots. Are there other games in this genre that you can recommend? (I see you posted an entire list which is nice, but is there any game inparticular that you really recommend?
 
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Martin Grider
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Muemmelmann wrote:
I have actually been playing a lot of set myself and I've considered getting Ricochet Robots. Are there other games in this genre that you can recommend? (I see you posted an entire list which is nice, but is there any game inparticular that you really recommend?


I definitely highly recommend ricochet robots.

The others I mentioned are interesting, but not as good, IMO. I do think it's probably worth tracking down the Spielbox article for descriptions of the others there. In that list, I've literally only played RR, so I can't give a qualitative opinion.
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russ wrote:
PS: Since you like Ricochet Robots, I'll toot my horn and mention my Looney pyramid-based Ricochet Pyramids inspired by RR.


I can't believe I didn't remember this earlier, but one of my own designs also fits into the theme of this thread. I have a "game system" I designed called SIX D SIX, (abstract strategy games with dice) and the 2nd game included with the system (SIX D "TWO") has a variant (Variant 2) that specifies everyone staring at the board simultaneously.

Man, reading through those rules again, there are a lot of points that need clarifying. (And a bunch of places I use die and dice inconsistently.) Illustrations would also have been nice. I'll have to do a rules update sometime soon.
 
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