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Subject: How do I (and you) pick a game to buy/play? rss

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CARL SKUTSCH
United States
New York
New York
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
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People have been talking theme recently (mostly getting it wrong, except when they agree with me) and that made me start to think about why I buy the games I buy. I'm also thinking about this because my house is a mess and I really need to clean up and part of that means dumping some games that just don't make the grade for me. Thinking about what games to dump makes me ask myself: "Why does it turn out that this particular game is not for me?" (Also, thinking and writing about all this means I can procrastinate about that whole house cleaning nonsense. It's a win win win situation. Until the wife gets back from Boston tonight and starts with the tapping of the feet and the pursing of the lips.)

Theme - There is no consensus on this, of course. For me it means a game that tells a story about the world that I can connect to and describe in non game mechanic terms. So, after a game of Agricola is finished I look at my position and say "Wow, what a nice farm." I don't primarily see a point salad--even though while I'm playing I'm very aware of that and am trying to score gobs of points--I see a lovely (or not so lovely) farm. It helps, of course, that I've pimped out my set quite a bit. In Forbidden Stars, I see my space empire grow, my fleets of brave Eldar advance, and then the whole thing go up in flames after my kid wipes everything out with his Ork Boyzzz. In Tammany Hall I see an ethnic mosaic over the streets of old New York (or Olde Newe Yorke, ife youe prefere). So I want a theme that appeals to me, that tells a story, that brings something to life.

What themes? - This matters, a bit. I want the theme to be appealing and my eye will be drawn to certain themes over others. If it's anything Japanese, I'm almost guaranteed in. Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, sold; Ninjato, sold; Yedo, yep. I also am fond of steampunk and Cthulhu but... Theme is not enough, if there's no game there I'm not going to buy. I haven't found very many steampunk or Cthulhu games that make me want to pull the trigger. Other themes just turn me off. I tried Patchwork and the theme just bored me (the game wasn't my cuppa either).

Ratings, yes, ratings - Yes, ratings matter to me. Not because I have to buy everything in the top 100, but because it is my experience that higher rated games are more likely to make me happy. Only 2 of my favorite games have an average (not the weighted geek average) of less than 7.0 (Blue Moon and Fortress America). Ratings are a filter. If a game title catches my eye, I glance at the ratings first. If they're below a 7 I don't bother looking any more. I'm the same way about restaurants and movies. I realize there are folks who take every opportunity to sneer at ratings ("I don't care what the hoi polloi are buying and playing," they say with a sniff of their aristocratic noses) but I think ratings are extremely helpful. Some call them "meaningless." Uh, sure, ok, for you, you special snowflake. Me, I'm not a special snowflake. I'm more like a pile of particularly unappetizing brown slush. A slushy ratings fan.

Shiny! - I want the game to look good. One of the first things I do when considering a game is look at pictures of the components. I want them to look high quality and visually appealing. I like fancy wood (more shapely than cubes) but I'm also drawn to plastic goodness. It can be a great game but if it looks boring it's a huge turnoff (hello The Castles of Burgundy). A big appeal of The Gallerist is the elegance of the board and art and how they look on my table.

Mechanics (you know, the game)
- Yeah, I know, this came fifth. Go ahead, judge me. I do look at those other things first, but then I look at the mechanics and the mechanics matter. Essentially, I want a game where my decisions matter and are not trivial. I want the better player to win more often than not. I don't mind randomness as long as it can be mitigated or as long as variance is evened out by the large number of random events (as in your standard wargame). I also tend to like games where there are fair number of options. Sandbox stye games are appealing for this reason (although most of my games are not sandbox). In Polis: Fight for the Hegemony, I have to figure out how to feed my people, expand my trade, build some special monuments, all while thwarting my enemy's attempts to do the same. It's brain burning fun. I tend to prefer medium to complex games because the decisions are harder to make and so I'm more satisfied when I make good ones. However, I also stock my collection with a fair number of simpler games to make my non-gamer friends happy when they come over. (Splendor for them, not Terra Mystica.)

Looks at my works and despair!
- I like games where I get to make things. Games where you create a tableau, build an empire, get civilization advances, all are appealing.

Deal me in
- I like cards, especially cards with pretty art. There's something laying down a spell or beast in Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn that makes em happy. I'm not at all sure how much I like Mage Wars Arena except cards! The cards in Blue Moon make that my favorite Knizia game.

A bit of conflict makes the game - I like some friction between players. Here I'm a little handicapped because my wife, one of my main gaming partners, does not (usually). Still, I have friends and a bloodthirsty son for kill kill kill games. In general, I am less attracted to multiplayer solitaire. In The Gallerist, you have to pay attention to what the other players are doing, or you'll probably lose. Same thing in Agricola. It's part of why I like Agricola on the iPad because it gives me the time to really analyze my opponents' positions.

Number of players - I am leary of games that don't work with 2 players. If it's a conflict heavy game my son or my main gaming buddy are my likely opponents. It will be rare that I get 3 or more people together for a kill fest. So Chaos in the Old World and Cthulhu Wars both sound cool but since they're multiplayer only, I'm not really interested. (Well, a little interested, because SHINY, but I haven't plunked down my $$$.) I'll get a multiplayer only Euro or family style game because those kinds of groups happen more often, but I still prefer if the game can be played heads up so that I can play mano-on-kickmybutto with my lovely wife.

A good designer - Two names pop up for me: Vital Lacerda and Ryan Laukat. Lacerda designs simply brilliant heavy Euros that are also very thematic. I want to get every game he makes. EVERY ONE! Ryan Laukat I love first for the art. He makes such beautiful games, all with his own art. I will say, with all respect, I think he is a better artist than designer. I think his designs are very interesting but not all equally good. My favorite of his games are Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, City of Iron: Second Edition, and Above and Below, but all 3 have some slight design weaknesses. Laukat's games are not must buys, but definitely must take a look ats.

So there you have it. I like pretty thematic games with lots of nice heavy decisions and a bit of conflict. Which doesn't really explain why I like Hive or Innovation. Consistency is not my middle name.
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CARL SKUTSCH
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
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Oh, and in case you're wondering...
Poll
Why no poll?
I'm building a stairway to heaven.
I see a poll and I want to paint it black.
I tried, I failed.
Butterscotch Snapple.
Agricola.
Scythe.
Chocolate chip walnut cookies.
      33 answers
Poll created by skutsch
 
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James Arias
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Sanford
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My filters and priorities are pretty close to yours. I've noticed though that I tend to like mechanics that everyone else hates. E.g. I love Monsters Menace America and I don't mind the roll and move mechanic if it's balanced out by something else.
 
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Pete
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Northbrook
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I basically wander the world and if a game presents itself, I might buy it.

Pete (buys games kinda like he plays pokemon go)
 
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CARL SKUTSCH
United States
New York
New York
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Agricola, Sekigahara, Concordia, Innovation, COOKIE!!! (and Guinness)
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SANJURO: You're all tough, then? GAMBLER: What? Kill me if you can! SANJURO: It'll hurt.
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plezercruz wrote:
I basically wander the world and if a game presents itself, I might buy it.

Pete (buys games kinda like he plays pokemon go)

I thought you kinda walked the earth like Caine in Kung Fu.
http://fightland.vice.com/blog/kung-fu-walking-the-earth-lik...
 
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James C
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I buy games that my wife will play. This means no dice, no fantasy theme, no scifi theme, no games lasting more than 75 minutes and no games with a weight more than the 3.5 area. So, that cuts through a lot of the games.

After that, I want games that seem fun.
 
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Darren M
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There are so many excellent games available now in this hobby... I limit my gaming buys to ONLY games in the top 100 of my personal ranking list of the most widely owned/rated/played and most highly rated games.

In addition only expansions that are the most widely owned/rated and highly rated make it onto my buy list as well. So if an expansion would effectively be in the top 100 games (using the base game as the determinant of replay value for the expansion)... then that expansion also makes the buy list.

I purposely use stats and only stats to make my buy list so that as much subjectiveness can be removed as possible from making buying decisions.

It's simply much too easy to overbuy and create a collection filled with unplayed games if I don't use a stats based system to determine my collection size.

The goal is to only buy new games once they enter the top 100 (after they essentially "prove" their value) and along with the new purchase a game must be culled from the collection to make room for the new purchase.

Of course I still have to have the discipline to stick to the system in order for the method to work at limiting collection size... and Kickstarter especially can be a tempting distraction but so far so good... there have only been a few minor missteps.
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Wouter
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I see a red poll and I want to paint it black... Did I actualy answer any question now?
 
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Kai Scheuer
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Eppelsheim
Rheinland Pfalz
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zombie

Gaaaaaaaame...

Must... buuuuyyyyy...
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1. Fun. Is the game fun. Are my usual gaming partners (family) going to find it fun. Top priority.

2. Mechanics. This is a big one serving several needs- they have to serve the fun factor, the theme, provide a good dose of interaction (ideally beyond "that's the thing i wanted") and some longevity, I don't buy a lot of games so I play the ones I do have relatively regularly. This means I like a bit of randomness and am starting to get a bit of a thing for cards happening. I don't want a game that can be totally optimized or solved. Theme for me is buried in the mechanics too - it's important to me that these are integrated well.

3. Playtime. Usually dictated by my playing partners (see point one).

=4. Setting. The chromy bits, the things that make the setting jump out, the back story, too. Historical setting is usually what I like.

=4. The bits and bobs. What it looks like. Often tied to the setting. Like I said I like nice cards but I'm not adverse to nice tiles or board or pieces either.

To work all that out I just read reviews with pictures and maybe watch a game play video. Then i stew on it for a week or two while I look to see if I can actually get it anywhere. Then in stew some more. Find another game to find out about it to try and take my mind off it until in a weak moment I give in.

 
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mortego
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I have really no idea what I like before hand but when something does catch my eye it's most likely because it looks fun to play. I will most likely look up several board reviews on it. A play through video and check out comments made here about the game. Then if I know someone who has a copy of it I'll ask if I can play it (I did that with Imhotep recently).

No real criteria other than "is it fun to play"
 
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