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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

New Math

Confession time: I’m a parakeet. Whereas Dave likes buying a game that will see playing time, I like bright and shiny. And, preferably, big.

That will so come back to haunt me one day.

During what will almost certainly be referred to as the “heyday” of euros in the US, roughly 1998 through 2002, I bought damned near everything produced by Rio Grande Games, and quite a few imports as well. I’ve already shared my impulse buy extravaganza experiences at Funagain back when they had a warehouse that allowed that sort of thing.

These days I try to be more selective, although I’m sure Dave will lump me in with the “will buy anything” group. From his perspective, I do. This is not to say that I am not discerning, just that my own calculus differs from his. The calculus for wargames has gotten more complex as these games now cost more, but the advent of “P500” style pre-order systems has thankfully hidden the cost of the game as the charge comes long before the game does and I never connect the two. Who says therapy doesn't work on the intelligent?

Here’s what I look for when I buy a euro:

The game should cost less than $50 if it’s in a large box (think Pirate’s Cove or bigger), $35 for a medium box like Settlers, and $20 for a small game. Card games should be $10, such as Frank’s Zoo. Strangely, this applies to the retail price, so I will rarely buy a game that is discounted unless the discount scales. For example, a discounted large box game should be $35-$40. Hey, I didn’t say it made sense. Remember, I hate to spend more than $40 for a pair of shoes. Cost is a factor, but

I should be attracted to the theme. For example, I really hate cowboys and all things Western. (You can imagine how I feel about my president, even if he's a rancher like I'm a brain surgeon. Actually, given my .sig, I’m pretty sure anyone who received e-mail from me has an excellent idea, but I’m going a bit far afield here.) I love almost anything from the ancient world (which I roughly define as prior to the medieval period). I’m not so hot on anything that centers on Medieval Händlers: How could trading salt in the Middle Ages be an interesting theme? Fantasy is passable. Spooky stuff and sci-fi are hot, although I’m unlikely to pick up the 3rd edition of Twilight Imperium.

By the way, what Dave said about Fantasy Flight goes double for me. I did buy Arkham Asylum (again, theme), but I will think long and hard about a FFG purchase in the future. Unless, of course, it is shiny.

Which brings me to publisher. I also avoid Avalanche Press (which does primarily wargames, essentially variations on a small number of systems and a really arrogant attitude toward their customer base), and I’m afraid that most small US publishers (Face2Face, Z-Man, Steve Jackson, etc) don’t get too much of my money. I’m hoping Eagle Games has turned around their oh-so-weak systems (sadly, I have four or five of their “designs” taking up shelf space) with Conquest, even if it is a repackage of Struggle of Empires. Perhaps it’s the lack of cachet, but I’m wary of “new” publishers as well unless I’m pretty sure I’ll like it. Which leads to...

I’m ashamed that this particular metric is so far down the list, but I do tend to choose games based on whether or not I think I will enjoy playing them. If I’ve never played, I will often base my decision on whether the game has good internet buzz, and we know what a good metric that is. Now that I’m retired and don’t have all of those work hours to surf the web, I don’t have nearly as good of a sense of whether a game will be good unless I check out the ‘Geek. Preferably, I will have played the game with my group (such as Anno 1503 this past weekend). Sadly, this often results in me buying a game like Bang! that was really fun once and now no one will play.

Lately, the number of players the game supports is a factor. I hardly ever get the chance to play 2-player any more, and then I prefer wargames. As I’ve said on my own blog, the GIPF series fascinates me, and I hope to play these more often, but I recently passed on Roma because I just don’t see me playing it at all even if it’s a great game. This from a guy who dropped $90 retail on Triumph of Chaos that will probably see two or three playings tops, so there you go.

And, of course, the Shiny factor. Games with poor component quality, a cheap box, or even mildly unsettling art will keep me away. This is a bigger factor when I’m making an impulse buy, obviously, but there’s a reason I don’t buy too many James Ernst games and this is it. I like good production values. So I’m shallow. There, I’ve said it.

I used to buy a lot of games to be a good host, but now that so many people in the group have a good selection, I no longer have that particular excuse. I still buy far too much, and not all of it is quality in terms of gaming experience, but I am getting ready to part with a sizeable portion of my collection. Those who know me are snickering as I say this, but it’s true. Mostly because I am out of freakin’ places to hide the games. I’ll talk more about the process I hope to go through when I do this next week.

So there, you’ve just spent 10 minutes inside my head. It’s a bit dusty, very cramped, and there are a lot of dead neurons laying around, but it’s the only head I have.

Oooh, I think I’ve just made a second double-entendre, time for me to stop this particular missive for the day. I’ll discuss the wargame calculus (which takes considerably less time to outline) in a future column.


  • At 12:38 PM, Blogger dave said…

    "I’m unlikely to pick up the 3rd edition of Twilight Imperium."

    Just "unlikely"? There's still hope!

    "this often results in me buying a game like Bang! that was really fun once and now no one will play."

    Yeah, we had that really bad game that one time that no one wants to recreate. A better example for our group may be Piratenbucht; we had those two really great games, after which a couple of others went out and bought it, but now no one really is insisting on giving it another go.

    Too bad, I was going to bring Roma to our Sunriver shindig that got cancelled. We can hook up next spring.

    - d

    p.s. *snicker*

  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    What's the diff between TI and a saxophone? You can't burn a saxophone.

    Even though I frequently purchase games specifically for Sunriver that sometimes see play there, I'm happy to buy your copy of Roma (as well as Cluzzle) since I did cancel Sunriver.

  • At 2:30 PM, Blogger dave said…

    Naw, I bought Roma mainly for Chuck and myself. I hadn't bought Cluzzle yet (I was going to take Thursday off to make the game run).

  • At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Rita said…

    "I really hate cowboys and all things Western." and then you say, "Sadly, this often results in me buying a game like Bang! that was really fun once and now no one will play."

    I seem to recall that the theme of Bang! is western so how could you possibly like it? KC loves it, especially that time at Sunriver when he got taken out before he even got a turn!


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