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Subject: Game categories for my collection rss

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Mark McGee
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I recently played a game that was so good it changed the way I evaluate all my games. It was so good that I could see myself playing it over and over without the need to play other games nearly as much. As I put it on the shelf one evening, I sat it beside other games that I mentally lump into the same category. When I did this, I tried to identify what made me categorize certain games this way and others differently. It led to me creating categories to organize my board game collection. I wanted to share the categories I came up with, because I think it serves as a real distinction among different types of games that I enjoy, and it’s different than other types of categorization efforts I’ve seen.

Now, a game can fit into multiple of these categories, but generally I’ve been able to find that each game that fits into multiple categories fits into one at least a little bit more than the others, and that’s where I put it. And of course other people, even if using the same categories, would group games a little bit differently, but this works for how I curate my collection.

Strategy Games
These are the games where the best player nearly always wins. They do not necessarily have more complex rules, but winning is not a straightforward effort and there is a lot of depth and a high skill ceiling. Imagine stuff like Tigris and Euphrates, El Grande, Container.

Mind Reading Games
This is a special category for me, because I love games where one of the main skills tested is how well you can read the other players and predict their actions. This goes all the way from social deduction games (The Resistance, Two Rooms and a Boom) to bluffing games (Poker, Elements) to certain simultaneous action selection games (Flamme Rouge, VOLT: Robot Battle Arena), as long as the actions directly impact other players (so not 7 Wonders).

Fun Games
These are games you just like to play with. They usually have a toy factor to them, or a lot of randomness or chaos. There is often laughing that happens while playing. (Crokinole, Camel Up, Animal Upon Animal, Telestrations, Incan Gold)

Experience Games
Most of these games technically have a win condition, but it’s best to not play them with the singular goal of winning. There may not be a true “best player” in any of these games, but the reason to play is the ride. They are pleasant packages that leave you with charming stories. (Tragedy Looper, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Xia: Legends of a Drift System, most RPGs)

Casual Games
For a game to be casual, it must have rules that are quick and easy to explain and understand. It should play in less than an hour. These are games that you play when you’re not in the mood for heavy thinking, but still want to use your brain. They tend to do one thing well, instead of having a lot of complex intertwined parts. Maybe these are games that are easy to bring out with your friends who don’t play board games as one of their main hobbies. (Coloretto, Hey! That’s My Fish!, Splendor)


None of these categories are intended to be indicators of quality. There are games I like and dislike in each category. I went through and bucketed all my games into these categories, and they all fall into place with no problems, and I’m satisfied with how it works. I’m positive I lumped some games together that others would separate (like social deduction and some simultaneous action selection), and I’ve categorized some games differently that some would (like some stuff in the Fun category). But this has helps me identify how I perceive my collection, to frame my expectations for games, and to make good selections for games to play at specific events. I also use it as a gauge when determining if a new game scratches the same itch as something else I have, so I can be more selective about my purchases.

Does anyone else use some less common categories for how they think about different types of games? I’m interested to see what other methods people use.


P.S. The game I mentioned initially was El Grande, and after playing it, I realized how comparatively shallow so many other games are. I’ve played several strategy games before, but for some reason, this one brought strategic depth to the forefront of my attention. Its existence necessitates the need for the Casual Games category, in part to differentiate between deep strategy and light strategy.
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Andres Montanes-Lleras
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Interesting.

I tried to think about my own collection in terms of this categories, and I had a very hard time fitting most games. For starters, I almost play exclusively solo, so "Mind Reading Games" are out. I also don't think I have any "Casual Games" in my collection (perhaps "Onirim"?). If I had to pick a category for most of my games it would probably be what you call "Experience Games" which I tend to call thematic, since that is the way I approach gaming in general.

Now, moving away from this catgorization, I usually think of my collection in terms of themes, type of game and specific mechanichs. Most of my games are fantasy or science fiction, so that for starters provide some clearly defined categories. I also tend to distinguish between miniature, dice and card based games, and withing this last category TCG's and deckbuilders. Table (and box) space and time could also be considerations when trying to pick what to play, so perhaps I could distinguish between small/fast games and longer/bigger ones.
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maf man
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meshnaster wrote:
Does anyone else use some less common categories for how they think about different types of games? I’m interested to see what other methods people use.

One of my most common organization is based on where a game will be played.

table between my wife and I -good 2 player games (center cabinet)
at my gaming groups party -higher quality games (right upper side)
At a family gathering -party games (bottom left)
out somewhere -camping/traveling/bars, a game that moves easily or is easily replaced (bottom center)
with my close family -siblings are big gamers also (top left)
games more for looks -I have a few old games that are playable but really there just as art (mainly top)
at a party I'm hosting -pretty much everything else (right lower)


ps way to make me want to try el grande
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Mark McGee
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montanus wrote:
I almost play exclusively solo


That is a whole set of games I did not consider, since I almost never play solo. There's a good chance solo games should be their own category, because they are significantly different than multiplayer games.

I started down the path of trying to differentiate between dice games, card games, minis games, etc, but for me the feel of some games can be similar, even with different mechanics. Take Martian Dice and Coloretto for example. One is a pure dice game, and the other is a pure card game. I can totally see why it's helpful for some people to split those into different groups, but the way I perceive them, they are very similar in feel and weight and experience.

It's neat to think about games in terms of how much table space they use. That makes a lot of sense.


mafman6 wrote:
One of my most common organization is based on where a game will be played.

This is where I started when I organized my game shelf during my recent move, but I hard a hard time getting differentiation. So many of the people I play games with are so similar, so I have 2 bag categories.
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